Tory MP launches appeal after council refuses planning permission for constituency office changes
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
A Conservative MP is challenging Powys County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to make changes to her constituency base in Llandrindod Wells.
Earlier this year, Fay Jones, the MP for Brecon and Radnorshire’s application for retrospective planning permission to change her office at Leamington House on Temple Street from retail to office use was rejected by Powys planners.
She also wanted to replace a “rotting wooden door and window frame” with similarly coloured UPVC – which is a form of plastic that is used as a wood substitute.
The issue with the application is that the office is in part of Llandrindod Wells which is a conservation area.
Letters lodged with the application said that the UPVC windows were needed as a security measure for MP’s.
As part of the evidence submitted to Welsh Government planning inspectors, Ms Jones has pointed out that neighbouring MP, Craig Williams had the windows of his Montgomeryshire constituency office in Welshpool vandalised last year.
The documents also say the Ms Jones’ office in Brecon has been attacked.
Ms Jones’ agent, Peter Weavers explained why the appeal had been lodged.
Mr Weavers said: “All premises offering accommodation to MPs, their staff and visitors attending the MP’s surgery, are vetted by parliamentary security teams, with a view to reducing the threat to politicians evidenced by the murder of Jo Cox MP and subsequently Sir David Amess MP.
“MPs are not offered an option, they must accept what security measures are specified by the security teams.
“At Llandrindod Wells that amounted to a number of changes, the one at issue being the replacement of single glazed, wooden framed windows and doors with similarly coloured and designed toughened glass in UPVC frames. ”
Mr Weavers said there had been no response from Powys planners to suggestions that the timber frames could be reinstated when Ms Jones leaves the premises, or that the “public interest test” of the changes had been considered.
Mr Weaver said: “It is arguable that the replacement of ageing, rotten, windows and doors with new frames of very similar design enabling use of a previously empty shop might, from the perspective of those visiting the conservation area in 2022, be seen as at worst neutral and to some a positive development.”
The council’s report on the application said: “Justification has been provided in support of the application requirement of UPVC windows based on security grounds.
“No evidence however has been provided which confirms that the existing timber windows and doors was considered less secure and that alternative options were first explored.”
“On this basis, I do not consider that the reasons put forward overrides the concerns raised to the character and appearance of the conservation area.”
The report also points out that in conservation areas, timber is the “most appropriate” material and the use of modern materials such as metal, plastic, or composites: “will not be permitted.”
Final submissions for the appeal are expected next month.
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