Questions remain on Model Farm decision as family ‘back in limbo’
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Several questions remain unanswered on the uncertain future of a family farm earmarked for a business park.
Last month Vale of Glamorgan council granted planning permission to Legal and General to build the 45-acre industrial estate on Model Farm, near Cardiff Airport.
But earlier this month it emerged a lack of financial information made public meant the decision will likely be quashed.
Rhys Jenkins, whose family have lived at Model Farm since 1935, welcomed the news that it would be quashed, but said the farm is “now back in limbo”. Meanwhile, council bosses were pressed for answers earlier this week on what exactly went wrong.
Mr Jenkins said: “We’re happy with the way it has gone. The council didn’t make information public that should have been made public. But it has to go to the courts to be quashed officially.
“We’ve been told it’s more than likely they will try and put it in front of the planning committee again. But this time they’re aware they’re being watched and looked over. It’ll be before the end of the year, we think.
“It’s very good news and it has stalled the development for now, giving us a bit longer to sort things out. But it leaves us in limbo, and we’re back to the uncertainty of not knowing where we stand or what’s going on.”
The Jenkins family, who farm cattle and wildflower seeds, previously said landowners Legal and General have given them until the end of July next year to move out.
Since the plans were first put forward, campaigners set up the Vale Communities Unite group to save the farm, which has attracted huge local support and raised funds to fight the planning decision.
Mr Jenkins added he hoped the planning committee could refuse permission, if the application were put forward again in the future with the legal issues resolved. He also thanked the local community for their support.
He said: “If and when it does go back to the planning committee, if all the information is actually made available to read, then hopefully they’ll see it’s not a viable development and that it’s a ridiculous idea. Hopefully their decision might change.
“We’re overwhelmed to see the support and messages we’ve had. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone in the community and everyone who has helped and sent letters. It’s greatly welcomed and appreciated.”
During a full council meeting on September 20, council bosses were asked to explain the reasons behind the omission of the financial information—regarding the viability of the development and Section 106 obligations—and what action was taken to prevent similar problems in future. One reason given was new case law which the council didn’t know about.
Councillor George Carroll, leader of the Conservative group, said: “The council has admitted that viability information was not disclosed as required on the Model Farm planning application. As a result, the council has agreed not to contest the judicial review of that decision and so that planning permission is likely to be quashed.
“Will the cabinet member please confirm how this error has been allowed to occur, and what measures the council is putting in place to ensure that such errors don’t occur in future, so that residents can have confidence in the planning process.”
‘Returned to council’
Cllr Eddie Williams, cabinet member for legal, regulatory and planning services, said: “Clearly this is quite an important topic. The council wasn’t found in error or at fault. We took advice from counsel, and there was some information found that was unknown by the rest of the councils in the whole of Wales.
“There was some case law that changed the view. The basis of that case was more to do with housing and the main purpose wasn’t about viability. So other planning authorities weren’t aware of this actual issue until we sought this counsel.
“We’ve got to let the process go through. There is a letter going out regarding this whole situation and how we have come to this situation. All councillors were made aware of the current situation. We just need to let it pan through and we’ll go from there.”
The council has previously declined to comment on the issue while the case goes through the courts, apart from an initial statement made on September 13, when a spokesman said: “The council has received a letter setting out the grounds for a judicial review application in relation to the planning approval granted for this development.
“Having considered the contents of that letter with its legal team, the council has agreed to consent to the application to quash its original decision.
“If the court approves the order quashing the original decision, the planning application will be returned to the council to redetermine following full consideration of all relevant matters.”