Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Planning free-for-all in Carmarthenshire?

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on November 20th 2015

Planning sagas are nothing new in Carmarthenshire, but the spate of bizarre cases recently will only add grist to the mill of those who want the Council abolished and wound up into a bigger regional body.

Even though he seems unable to see what the fuss is about, the fact that Plaid’s Emlyn Dole, the Leader of the Carmarthenshire, broke his own Council’s planning rules proves the fact there’s a problem at County Hall.

Emlyn Dole knocked down a very old barn without planning permission. To be fair to them the planning officers recommended that he be forced to pull down the brand new building he and his wife had built in place of the charming barn. He ignored them and decided to take his chance with the planning committee.

Now of course, members of the planning committee act independently - party politics isn’t meant to come into play, they are “strictly non-political” according to the Chair of the Planning Committee, Cllr Alun Lenny (Plaid Cymru).

In the event the Planning Committee decided to overlook the fact that Emlyn Dole breeched planning guidelines, and they overlooked the advice of professional officers that ripping out hundred of years of local history in favour of concrete block work wasn’t on.

You can see why Emlyn Dole decided to chance it with the Planning Committee.

But it sent out a clear message - do as you please.

Days later a major housebuilding firm started tearing up hedgerows, removing kerbs and cutting down trees in Hendy to start work on a new estate - even before the Planning Committee had met to consider it.

The local Plaid Councillor, Gareth Thomas, had not objected to the application to develop land near the Llwynbedw estate, and Persimmon felt so confident that they’d be nodded through that they even started advertising the houses for sale!

It makes a mockery of the planning system in Carmarthenshire, and what hope is there of restoring faith in it when the Leader of the County Council shows such casual regard for his own planning policies?

Any fair minded observer can see how bad this looks, but Emlyn Dole and the Chair of the Planning Committee, Cllr Alun Lenny, cannot. Rev’s Dole and Lenny instead give lectures on integrity.

There is a need for integrity: integrity in the planning system. Much more of this and the case for the Welsh Government to step in and strip the Council of its planning powers will become irresistible. 

Lee Waters is the Welsh Labour Assembly candidate for Llanelli

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