Thursday, 10 January 2013

Planning Committee split on Enforcement Action against Viridor

January 9th Cardiff Planning Committee split on Enforcement Action against Viridor
In July the Council “invited” Viridor to stop construction on its Trident Park site after starting construction work without permissions to build. Following CATI's objections, they had to submit subsequent applications to meet “pre-commencement conditions” . These were published by the Council for consultation in July and public objections have held them up ever since. At the time, the council said publicly it would take “robust enforcement action” if building started before the applications were resolved, but they did not put the question of enforcement action to the planning committee till 9 January, following pressure from the Environmental law firm Richard Buxton.

Despite strong arguments from Councillors for action, the Commnittee vote was tied 4:4 and so they decided to defer the matter rather than approve the officers' report.

As YourCardiff  reports, the council’s head of planning, Phil Williams, told committee members that although Viridor had continued with the unauthorised works wwhich is unlawful, council officers did not think enforcement action was appropriate because the detailed plans, including the pre-implementation conditions, were due to be discussed at the next planning committee meeting in February, and the issue could be resolved then.

All three ward members for Splott – Councillors Gretta Marshall, Huw Thomas, and Luke Holland – told the committee that they believed enforcement action should be taken to stop Viridor’s unlawful activity, with Cllr Holland saying the firm was developing the site ” at a pace which is almost as breathtaking as [its] arrogance”. Committee member Cllr Adrian Robson said he believed it was “very clear” the council should be acting to stop the unlawful activity, while Cllr AliAhmed said that if big companies like Viridor did not comply with planning conditions, how could the committee expect general members of the public to do so. However, Cllr Lyn Hudson said it was only a short amount of time before the application to discharge the pre-commencement conditions would come before the committee again. Vice-chair Cllr Garry Hunt said he fully supported the Splott Cllrs, but would need evidence on why the current work was causing unacceptable harm to public amenity, so voted for deferral.

The legal officer quoted planning law to support allowing Viridor to continue - because they couldn't say there's no likelihood of agreeing conditions – but could not say why this wouldn't apply to many other small developers who were stopped outright. No Councillor challenged his selective use of the law to favour Viridor**, just disbelief. And indirect criticisms for giving no evidence on ongoing building work and potential harm to amenity and environment that's necessary for the decision on enforcement action.

CATI lobbied the Committee in September to consider enforcement action; just 4 months later after a solicitor's threat that the officers concealed, the Committee receives a shoddy report and has to defer decision.
** The primary Welsh guidance, Planning Policy Wales specifies (3.8.1-3) enforcement against developments that unacceptably affect public amenity or the existing use of land and buildings meriting protection in the public interest, which needs to be effective and timely; prompt initiation of action may be necessary to prevent an unacceptable breach of planning control from becoming well established.

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