Monday, 7 January 2019

WELLNESS - THE PLANNING APPLICATION

WHY THE RUSH?
Carmarthenshire County Council are trying to rush through planning permission for the Wellness centre on January 10th. It is perfectly legal for County Councils to give themselves planning permission on land that they themselves own. Naturally, it is pretty much a “shoo in”.
The Llanelli Wellness Centre project has lost its City Deal Support after it was exposed as not fulfilling the economic conditions for such a deal, primarily it had no private investment partners with money to put on the table. The UK and Welsh Government are investigating.

The  theoretically " Plaid Controlled" Carmarthenshire County Council has decided to present the planning application for approval by its own councillors on Jan 10th without publishing the business plan or even important details of the advice in correspondence from National Resources Wales who may not yet have fully approved the site plans.


Llanelli Floods 1981

BUSINESS CASE HAS VANISHED
The business case for this huge project was written by Swansea Academic Professor Marc Clement, has not been released to the ordinary councillors or this planning committee, never mind the public. The Wales Audit Office and Auditor General are supposed to be investigating the Delta Lakes Wellness project decision process. Why then press on before a decision is reached by the WAO as to the propriety of the project planning itself?

Looking at the documents many planning assessments of the site have apparently not yet been completed or even started.Some "findings" by the public protection team seem based on opinion rather than facts.

OTHER INFORMATION MISSING
For example, NRW have not yet decided on the flood consequences on this tidal lake site adjacent to the estuary, which includes flood plains. The Council has yet to complete or even start basic safety tests, for instance actually testing the lake water and soils for current levels of pollution. NRW were not entirely satisfied with the wildlife protection and more data needs to be submitted by the Council. Could they have consulted NRW and not waited for the result?

The Council has decided to ignore the fact that access roads are in flood plains and although outside the site, are important issues to be addressed.

COUNCILLORS TO FILL IN BLANKS?
NRW wish, according to Council documents to impose planning conditions on the site, but these are not spelt out in the information to councillors. How can they decide without the full facts?

MY PERSONAL THEORY
The Council are seriously short of money to build, I believe they have already borrowed £200 million to build the site but are still short of full funding as they thought they would get UK and WG funding via the city deal. Council leader Emlyn Dole now believes the investment can be funded by the rents and business rates from the buildings yet to be constructed.

I believe the rush the planning is to facilitate a perfectly legal but morally questionable "funding" strategy. After outline planning permission the site would still be a tidal swamp but it will be argued that it is now worth £millions more as a development site and this "fake" money will be put on the balance sheet as “investment”. But is not real money, you can’t buy anything with it. At best it is an asset to offer as collateral for more borrowing.

The councillors will have little time to read the documents and extreme pressure to rescue this project despite all of its obvious flaws. Otherwise they will lose credibility and its been made clear to the councillors that this is the only plan on the table for “jobs” in Llanelli . However, with no business plan its not even clear what the jobs will be?

This could lead to an expensive white elephant which could impoverish the area for decades as the local Government Debt was dealt with .If it is such a good idea where is the business case? Why not wait for WAO to decide if the project was properly considered or not?


WHAT CAN ANYONE DO?
The planning application is s/36948 to be determined on 10th January.
The planning minister at Welsh government is Julie James https://beta.gov.wales/julie-james-am or Correspondence.Julie.James@gov.wales
At any time before the application is decided anybody can email  to ask the minister to "call in" an application on planning grounds.If they agree the application may be delayed to allow investigation.

Siân Caiach,

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