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Council criticised over delays to One Planet Developments

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has come under fierce attack for how it handles One Planet Developments, one of the Welsh Government’s schemes to promote a greener rural economy.

WHAT IS A ONE PLANET DEVELOPMENT?

The Welsh Government defines a One Planet Development as “development that through its low impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality. One Planet Developments should initially achieve an ecological footprint of 2.4 global hectares per person or less in terms of consumption and demonstrate clear potential to move towards 1.88 global hectares over time”.
Planning Policy Wales goes on to say that One Planet Developments “should be able to support their inhabitants in terms of income, food, energy and waste assimilation over no more than five years from the commencement of work on the site.”
The key element is that the policy allows new land-based live-and-work enterprises in the countryside provided that strict rules are followed.
The policy has received criticism from planning committee members across West Wales, particularly from those connected to farming areas or who are farmers themselves. They claim the policy is unfair to agricultural families who want to build homes for their children on their land.
As we shall see below, Pembrokeshire’s councillors also grind that particular axe.

Huw George

A READER WRITES

Tesi Delaney has made an application for a One Planet Development. She contacted us recently and told us of her problems in navigating the choppy waters and conflicting agendas of planners who are supposed to assess applications on clear statutory grounds and county councillors determined to block One Planet Developments because ‘Maenclochog’.
She writes: I remember when The Herald published its original article because I was one of the people quoted in it. I had just been refused OPD for my site in Rhosfach, in the Mynachlogddu ward of North Pembs.
My local councillor, Huw George, had been on the BBC, telling the nation that OPD was not fit for purpose.
When I made my second application, Cllr George and I had a meeting along with some other people to discuss my application. He said he would help me, and in the case of a second recommendation for refusal, would insist that the case was taken to the committee to be heard democratically.
Last Friday (November 8), I received my second recommendation for refusal. I am now waiting for a reply from Cllr George, having messaged him the same night to ask if he is still willing to support me.
Cllr George has the power to put my case in front of the planning committee, who have shown themselves largely in favour of OPD applications. This way, my application would be assessed by the committee, and not just be judged on the opinion of one delegated planning officer. In effect, then, my fate lies largely in the hands of someone who is a self-professed opponent of OPD. Tricky.
So we come to our first problem. Why is it that a decision that impacts someone’s life so completely, can be taken by one delegated member of the council planning team?
OPD is still in its infancy, and there are questions on both sides which need ironing out. It seems, however, that the planning officers do not wish to undertake such complicated matters.

Erica Thompson

A TICKING CLOCK

Which takes us to my next point. Why did it take five months to refuse me last time, and nearly seven months this time? The planning schedule is supposed to give you a decision with eight weeks.
If they fail, they are supposed to request an extension before the deadline and ask for more time. On my first application, my planning officer was extremely late asking for an extension and then went over the new deadline anyway.
The second time, I was not even asked for an extension.
Such a long wait has you phoning up in desperation, just to be number 500 in a queue. When you get through they’re “not in the office”.
So you email, and they ignore you. I was asked to not to contact my planning officer. I was expected to be left hanging for months on end, waiting for my life to begin and losing seasons. All while, I felt they put OPD applications aside and dealt with easier matters.
It’s not just me. Local businessman, Daniel Badham – a tree surgeon of high repute in the area, born and bred in Pembrokeshire – applied for OPD on his site in Reynalton last March.
That’s right. Nine months ago.
He feels he has been constantly fobbed him off, just the same as me. Excuses, delays, avoidance.
Daniel has been living away from his daughters the whole time, staying in a caravan on his dad’s farm for what he thought would be about eight weeks. He’s now heading into his second winter. His kids are growing into teens and losing interest in the whole idea; feeling, no doubt like, it’s all some big lie.
And they’d be right.
Not a lie from their dad; a lie from the council about how long they expect these things to take, and as to whether or not it might happen.
Another local, Stephen De-Waine, a fisherman of the Haven since he was a young man, sold everything he owns, including his fishing boat, and purchased a plot of land to do an OPD.
“The thing that worries me,” he said, “is that the council seem to stall OPD for as long as they can get away with it. I’m 54. I can’t waste time waiting for them to decide if it’s going to take me a year”. And he has a point. Unnecessary stress is not something welcome in his life.
And why should it be? It’s only a planning application.
We’re not asking to bring back hanging, although, from the level of vitriolic response to applications, I’m not sure some locals wouldn’t welcome such a thing.
Young people watching my progress on social media, who are thinking as they watch OPD could be of interest to them, must see the aggro and decide firmly not to bother. I know, given my time again, that I wouldn’t. And I’m nearly at the stage where I’d say to anyone, don’t do it.
It’s a nightmare. That’s hardly a good advertisement for a Welsh Assembly policy that intends to do all it can to promote greener, more self-sufficient living.

 

CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS?

Back in May PCC declared a climate emergency. Since then, they’ve been doing everything in their power to make the greenest policy they have as impossible as they can make it.
I still have no idea why I’ve been recommended for refusal, as my planning officer has made a decision, but hasn’t done the report yet. And I don’t get this information sent to me personally; it’s posted online for me to read in public along with all my objectors.
This is my third point. To apply for OPD you have to present a 50-100 page document, outlining every single detail of your plans, your life, your outgoings, everything – some of it very personal information. This information is then published online. If the council ask you a question and you answer it, they also publish that; which resulted in the council plastering my mental health issues all over the internet.
A quick gander at some of the objections to OPDs and you begin to realise the level of prejudice we’re up against. Everyone panics.
“We’ve got hippies!” They cry.
I used to be a lecturer at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, but they see muddy boots and recycled items and they think the brew crew have moved in.
Applicants Rose and Mike Quirk, who own a site in Llangolman, have stated how alien it is for them to be perceived as such ne’er do wells. “We’ve always been respected before!” said Rose, who has degrees in both nursing and psychology. Mike is a traditional timber builder. Their application is currently at the five-month mark. Again, not even close to eight weeks.
So why the lies about the timescale?
Why not admit that they don’t have the resources and tell you you’re looking at around six months, minimum for a decision?
And that’s the fourth point. Lies.
I was told by my planning officer that I wasn’t allowed to see my objections. I have since found this not to be the case. In the end, a friend put in a freedom of information request and got them for me.
Why did that have to happen?
I should have been able to see the objections. How come the objectors get such privacy when my life is laid bare for all to see?
Objectors are usually people who have seemingly wonderful lives, but who somehow have nothing better to do than to constantly complain about everything and anything. They’re the same people who used to phone up DVLA when your tax disc was a day out.

 

THE COST TO THE COUNCIL

So what happens now? Well, I go to appeal; a very expensive undertaking for the council, and risky for them, as most OPDs are granted permission at appeal, making the whole exercise a waste of everyone’s time and money.
An appeal will take 6- 8 months. If I win, the council have to pay all my costs. They say the applications are taking so long because they’re under-resourced, yet they can suddenly rustle up twenty grand to defend their shortcomings.
And then, are they’re going to take Rose to Appeal? And Dan? And Steve? How many of us are they going to make an example of before they just accept that this is an Assembly initiative which local council politics and nimbyism should have no part in?
OPD is capable of answering legitimate housing and working need for many people in this county, where jobs and affordable homes are few. Farmers are having to diversify. Why shouldn’t they raise a few quid for their retirement by selling a few acres to a couple of young ‘uns, or not so young ‘uns, to create a life for themselves, to provide themselves with jobs, a roof over their head, and be a burden to nobody, doing their bit for climate change?
There’s nothing stopping farming families taking advantage of the policy, enabling them to split farms between family members, and each has their start and chance.
When I first bought my land I tried to find a house to rent locally. So many empty houses, not one for rent. All the little croft cottages are now holiday cottages. So where are we supposed to live?
OPD isn’t for everyone. It’s not an easy life. All the more reason why the people attempting it should be supported in their attempts to create a less consumerist world, planting trees and plants for pollinating insects, growing food and being as self-sufficient as possible, on natural land, that is balanced, cared for and not smothered in pesticides. Soon it may be a lifestyle that everyone has to undertake. That’s worth thinking about.
Even if you get your OPD over the line, it doesn’t stop there. You need to do yearly monitoring reports. If you’re not complying or succeeding as much as they want you to, planners can make you take down everything you’ve worked for, and you’ve got five years to do it all – build a home, a business, and prove your worth. So much for “getting away with it”.

 

COUNCIL’S PLANNERS AT ODDS WITH OWN POLICY

You can’t incite a revolution if you’re not prepared to fight, as they say. So some of us have to be the ones to get through these early processes. Perhaps don’t have the energy of the guys at Lammas, or Charlie and Meg at the Roundhouse, or Tony Wrench. That’s yet to be seen.
But ultimately, it’s still my land. I have options. But it’s pretty crazy to disallow me to make a home and living for me and my son. The real stinger is that my first refusal said that I hadn’t done enough to start my business. So I’ve been doing loads, setting up stuff, only to be told now that they’re going to refuse me. Not only that, they intend to pretty much immediately enforce my workshop that doubles as somewhere to keep baby goats when it freezes and is where my cats and dogs live.
Pretty soon, all homes will have to be eco homes. The council said this themselves at a meeting in May. The next LDP will contain such policies as all new builds being eco builds. That includes those of Mr George’s farmers he says think developments like mine are unfair to them.
I’ve planted hundreds of trees on my site. I’ve planted hundreds of trees in pots. They’re growing happily on a site the council say can’t grow trees.
My business plan is for a tree nursery, with trees grown with local seed and cuttings, and not imported.
All we see is that governments are encouraging tree planting. As ash die-back decimates our county, the council see fit to refuse an application for a tree nursery. Do you understand? Because I don’t.

COUNCIL SAYS OPD TOO COMPLICATED

Cllr Huw George did not respond to our request for answers to criticisms of him made in this article.
Pembrokeshire County Council told us that OPDs should be regarded as special cases.
“There are significant demands on the local planning authority in terms of resources (time, cost, expertise) not only in assessing applications for One Planet Development but also through monitoring and enforcement.
“The level of detailed evaluation that OPD applications require and the need for clarification or the submission of additional information can lead to applications taking longer than the standard determination period of 8 weeks.
“Retrospective applications can be used as a way of retrofitting unauthorised residential development in the open countryside to One Planet Development policy as a way of obtaining planning permission rather than a genuine desire and commitment to One Planet Development and a low impact lifestyle.”
That got short shrift from Dr Erica Thompson, Chair of the One Planet Council.
“It is disappointing that some applications do take a very long time to reach a decision. We recognise that One Planet Development applications are complex and that there are other planning considerations beyond the “One Planet” nature of the development – and indeed the incredible strain at the moment on council services including planning.
“However, the One Planet Development Practice Guidance published by the Welsh Government assesses whether or not an application conforms to the requirements relatively simple once an officer is familiar with the requirements. The One Planet Council can offer professional training to planning officers by request.
“In approving one recent application, Carmarthenshire Council’s planning committee mentioned their declaration of a Climate Emergency and their commitment to taking commensurate action. Promoting and enabling One Planet Development, though not the whole solution, is one way that councils can take action towards the challenges that the climate crisis presents for us in Wales.
“Pembrokeshire has been leading the way in One Planet Development and we hope that the council will continue to assess applications as fast as is reasonably possible, with fairness against the criteria, so that those who want to take up this opportunity can do so without having to put their lives and businesses on hold.”

Business

New McDonald’s restaurant to be built in Milford Haven if planning approved

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MC DONALD’S will be coming to Milford Haven if plans are passed by local councillors. Planning applications have been submitted this month by the fast food giant to open a new drive-thru style branch at Haven Heads Business Park.

Currently Milfordians who are hungry for a Big Mac and fries have to drive to Haverfordwest or Pembroke Dock.

The plans require the existing Unit G – next to Hakin Bridge – to be demolished and a new building to be constructed.

From the plans submitted we can see that – if approved – the restaurant will look like the computer image below.

How the Milford Haven Branch will look

The fast food giant has over 1300 branches in the UK, with Birmingham Liverpool and Glasgow having the most outlets with 17 stores each per city. Mc Donalds has over 136,000 staff or ‘crew members’ as they call them in the UK.

Location for the proposed McDonald’s Drive Thru (Google Streetview)
Plans for new Mc Donalds are on the PCC website
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Business

Employment figures show ‘labour market is strong’ says local MP Stephen Crabb

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FIGURES published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics show that unemployment is falling across the country while the number of unfilled job vacancies continues to increase.

The UK unemployment rate for January to March 2022 decreased by 0.3% on the quarter to 3.7%. The number of job vacancies has also increased nationally with 1.295 million job vacancies on average across February to April 2022, up from 1.261 million in the previous quarter. For the first time ever, there are fewer unemployed people than job vacancies. 

In Preseli Pembrokeshire, the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits aged 16-64 has decreased by 37% from 2,316 to 1,445 in a year, as more people take advantage of the growing number of job opportunities locally. Those claiming unemployment related benefits in Preseli Pembrokeshire remains lower than that of the national average at 3.2% compared with 4%.

But figures published today show that prices are rising at their fastest rate for 40 years with inflation at 9%. The rate is expected to sustain and is on course to continue to increase over the course of the year. Mr Crabb has consistently spoken out to protect those on the lowest incomes, calling on the Government to offer further support to help ease the soaring cost of living.

Commenting on the latest figures, Mr Crabb told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We know that the pandemic has put a strain on the labour market, and I have been told by local businesses that staffing and recruitment has been a cause for concern. But these employment figures are extremely positive for Pembrokeshire, and show that the labour market is strong”

“The local job centre does a tremendous job at helping to fill vacancies through providing a tailored recruitment service for local employers. It is great to hear and see that people are making use of these services and seeking work”

“With the summer tourist season looming, no doubt local tourism and hospitality businesses in Pembrokeshire will continue to see an increase in the uptake of work”

“However, these positive figures sit in the backdrop of the cost of living crisis. Having recently met with Citizens Advice locally, and received many emails from worried constituents, I am acutely aware of the financial pressures that so many are facing and the need for some easing of the burden”

“I have been consistent in my calls for the Government to offer further support to those on low and middle incomes. With the latest inflation figures released today, this problem is only set to get worse and it is clear that without targeted action many will fall into real hardship and debt”

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News

Pembroke Dock: Five years in jail for Asda cashpoint robbery

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A PEMBROKE DOCK man has been jailed for five years for robbing a woman at knifepoint at the cashpoint at Asda on April 15.

Kieran Steven Brumby, 36, held a knife to the woman’s throat and demanded she hand over the £160 she was withdrawing from the cash machine.

He admitted the charge of robbery, and further pleaded guilty to charges of both possessing a knife in a public place and possessing 0.9g of cocaine.

Caged: Kieran Steven Brumby

Those in the court watched intently, as shocking CCTV footage was played, of the defendant holding a large kitchen knife against the victim’s throat.

When police arrested Brumby, who lives at Water Street, that evening, he denied that he was the person show in the CCTV footage. But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (May 16) he pleaded guilty as charged.

The victim had stopped at the cash point to withdraw money before meet friends in Haverfordwest.

Brumby held the knife to her throat saying: “‘Give me the money”.

In a victim impact statement the woman said that she was suffering from sleepless nights, palpitations and nightmares about being attacked.

She said: “I feel depressed and anxious and constantly feel like somebody is behind me. I am checking over my shoulder every five minutes. If I leave the house feelings of panic rise.”

Brumby has previous conviction for possessing a shotgun without a certificate in 2009 and for breaching community orders.

Jon Tarrant, defending barrister, said his client’s long-term partner had walked out on him last year and that he had lost his employment and his home – affecting his client’s mental health.

“He can provide no explanation for his actions on this day,” said Mr Tarrant.

“He offers his profound apologies not only to the court but to his victim. He has profound regret and deep remorse for what he has done.”

Judge Geraint Walters said: “The victim impact statement shows the profound effect that your offending has had on your victim. A woman alone out in a, relatively speaking, remote location given the time of day.

“The effect of your offending in this case seems capable of being described as significant if not serious.

“I am not in doubt that this was to do with your cocaine habit.”
Judge Walters handed down a five-year sentence for the robbery, with a 12-month sentence for possession of the knife and a one-month sentence for cocaine possession to run concurrently.

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