Stepaside and Pleasant Valley Residents’ Group head to the High Court

Tuesday 5th October 2021 10:11 am
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Alec Cormack of the Stepaside and Pleasant Valley Residents Group ()

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The following is a from letter Alec Cormack Director of Stepaside and Pleasant Valley Residents’ Group (SPVRG) outlining the group’s High Court case next week...

Sir, On Monday (October 11) there will be a Judicial Review hearing at the High Court in Cardiff.

Stepaside and Pleasant Valley Residents’ Group (SPVRG) is challenging a planning permission granted in May by Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) at the Heritage Park, Stepaside.

I am writing to outline for your readers the background to this issue and why SPVRG felt compelled to bring this action.

In 1987, the old Dyfed CC granted a planning permission, and in return the owner of the Heritage Park signed a legal agreement (the Agreement) guaranteeing that the north of the site would never be used for anything other than parking.

The Agreement is binding over all future owners of the site. PCC now owns the site and has leased it to a company (the Leaseholder) who has operated a caravan site in the south of the site since 2007.

PCC were aware of the Agreement, and informed their Leaseholder of it in 2006. But PCC then forgot about it, and in 2010 they entered into an arrangement with the Leaseholder, agreeing in advance, a plan to site caravans on the north of the site (in direct contravention of the legal agreement).

PCC later granted planning permission for the proposed caravan development in 2016. PCC only rediscovered the 1987 permission and Agreement in their files on May 7, 2021.

Despite the 2016 permission being granted in ignorance of, and in conflict with, the 1987 permission and Agreement, the Court ruled earlier this year that it is too late for SPVRG to challenge it after five years.

However the Court did grant SPVRG permission to challenge a 2021 planning permission on seven separate grounds.

The key point is that the 1987 Agreement legally prevents all caravan development in the north of the site - it simply overrides all planning permissions.

The Court hearing next week is critical because PCC has told us they are going to try to convince the judge that the Agreement is invalid, or not in force, or if it is in force, that they will not enforce it anyway.

An explicit objective of the 1987 Agreement was to “control any intensification of use in the face of local concerns”.

The Agreement was therefore designed to prevent exactly the kind of development now proposed in 2021.

We feel that PCC’s threat (as Local Planning Authority) not to enforce the Agreement against themselves (as Freeholder) is both a blatant conflict of interest and contrary to the public interest.

Were PCC to be acting reasonably, they would welcome the rediscovery of the Agreement, since it gives them the chance to correct the error they made in granting the 2016 permission.

We look to the Court to uphold the validity of the 1987 Agreement next Monday.

Should this happen, then SPVRG will campaign to encourage Officers and Councillors to immediately enforce the 1987 Agreement.

However, should PCC fail to enforce it, then SPVRG stand ready to commence further legal action to protect the visitors and residents of Stepaside and Pleasant Valley.

Alec Cormack

Director

SPVRG Limited

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