URGENT – Calling in of planning applications

RESPONSE TO MY CALL-IN REQUEST
I now have a much better idea how the system works and we can discuss how to take things forward in the coming meetings – Sigingstone, Sunday evening and Bridgend Green Party Meeting next Thursday. 

Date: 11/03/2011 15:01:25
Subject: FW: URGENT – Calling in of planning applications

Dear Mr Chyba

Thank you for your e-mail of 10 March. My section of the Assembly Government’s Planning Division has responsibility for dealing with call-in requests and your e-mail has been passed to me for response. Firstly, the Welsh Ministers have consistently held the view that democratically elected authorities should be responsible for determining planning applications wherever possible. Jane Davidson, the Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing becomes involved in the consideration of a planning application only when she considers that the application raises planning issues of more than local importance. Over the last 10 years only 0.02% of planning applications have been called in. I make that point here – not to pre-judge any view about your request(s) – but to make clear that the call-in of an application is a comparatively rare event. In effect, the Minister will need to be convinced that an application is of regional or even national importance. Secondly, I cannot accept your “blanket” request for all applications in Wales of a certain type to be called in. Minerals Planning Policy Wales sets out those issues which need to be taken into consideration when a decision maker deals with an application involving energy production and nothing in MPPW or PPW leads me to believe that all applications for coal bed methane extraction or related processes are automatically contrary to national planning policy or automatically raise issues of more than local importance. All call in requests must be considered on their own merits but they must relate to individual applications that have not yet been determined by the local authority. It is not the role of the Assembly Government to trawl through current applications to see what might be considered for call in. The Assembly Government will look at an application if a call in request is made or if an application is notified to us by the authority – say, as a significant departure from its development plan.

You have quoted a number of applications which I have managed to track down on Council websites. 2010/0720, 0688 and 0703 all appear to have been made by Centrica to Neath Port Talbot CBC. 2010/0665 and 0664 are not on the website and may be the two Centrica applications which you refer to as being withdrawn or having been determined. P11/12 in Bridgend and 2011/0115 in Vale of Glamorgan also appear to be live applications. I can consider these 5 applications for call in if you make representations for each to be called explaining the rationale for your request (in this respect I have attached a leaflet on call-in for information). I hope you will appreciate that it is not sufficient to refer substantial controversy or threat to habitats in general terms. You also make reference to an application in Swansea made by Composite Energy. I found no live application by that company in Swansea’s list of current applications. I have insufficient information to look at the RCT or Caerphilly council websites. You would need to identify a specific application before any further action could be taken. The Welsh Ministers do not consider the merits of an application when considering call-in and will not consider allegations about how an application is being processed by a Council or whether a Council’s officers, or those of the Environment Agency, are sufficiently qualified or experienced to determine an application. Any concerns about propriety or the processing of an application has to be addressed to the Council’s Monitoring Officer or the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. You have also asked for a moratorium to be imposed on any application that already has permission. There is no provision in law for such action once a planning permission has been granted. The decision to grant the permission would need to be challenged in the Courts through judicial review. To summarise, from the information you have supplied, there are 5 identified planning applications that are undetermined – 3 in NPT, one in Bridgend and one in VoG. If you wish the Welsh Ministers to consider any or all of those for call-in I would be grateful if you would confirm which ones; a case for call-in should properly be made for each separate application and should relate to the specific planning issues raised by each application. If you wish to proceed with your request for some or all of the extant applications to be called-in could you send any representations you wish to make about the application(s) to the case officer who, in this case, will be John Saunders (029 2082 3878 or john.saunders)

Clive Ancrum
Planning Decisions Branch – Cangen Benderfyniadau Cynllunio
Welsh Assembly Government – Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru
Cathays Park – Parc Cathays
Cardiff – Caerdydd CF10 3NQ
Tel – Ffon [029-2082] ext 5181
GTN: 1208-5181
Fax – Ffacs [029 2082] ext 5622
email – ebost: clive.ancrum

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