Councillor Huw David - Leader of Council
Councillor Neelo Farr - Cabinet Member for Regeneration
Janine Nightingale - Corporate Director - Communities
Jonathan Parsons – Group Manager Planning & Development Services
Zak Shell - Head of Operations - Community Services
Delyth Webb – Group Manager Strategic Regeneration
Julian Thomas – Team Leader Regeneration Projects and Approaches
Jacob Lawrence – Principal Regeneration Officer
The Senior Democratic Services Officer - Scrutiny presented the report the purpose of which was to enable the Committee to scrutinise the decision of Cabinet of 18 October 2022 in relation to the report on Porthcawl Waterfront Regeneration: Appropriation of Land at Griffin Park and Sandy Bay.
She advised that, in accordance with Rule 18 of the Overview and Scrutiny Rules in the Council’s Constitution, five Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees, and two Scrutiny Chairs, had requested that an Executive decision made by Cabinet on the 18 October 2022 be Called-In.
She advised that the Committee was recommended to consider the Cabinet decision of 18 October 2022 relating to Porthcawl Waterfront Regeneration: Appropriation of Land at Griffin Park and Sandy Bay and to determine whether it wished to:
i) refer the decision back to Cabinet for reconsideration, setting out in
writing the nature of its concerns; or
ii) decide not to refer the matter back to the Cabinet.
The Chairperson invited the Members who had supported the Call In to speak on the reasons for the Call In.
Members stated the main reasons for the Call In included:
- Scrutiny should be seen as providing assurance to the public, to Cabinet and Officers that the Council was proceeding in the correct direction and should be seen as adding value and strengthening the public policy making process.
- The need for demonstrable evidence the local authority had implemented the 5 Ways of Working in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (The WBFG(W) 2015 Act), requiring public consultation to go beyond the statutory minimum.
- Members had received a significant number of representations from town councillors, members of the public and local organisations in Porthcawl objecting to the proposals who had raised concerns and valid questions regarding the regeneration plans. Members welcomed the opportunity of giving those people a voice, recognising the significant generational impact and irreversible change to the town that the development plans could have on Porthcawl.
- Concern was expressed that the public perception from the Cabinet meeting might have been that it had been a pre-determined decision given the high level of public concerns that did not appear to have been adequately discussed or addressed.
- That there needed to be demonstrable evidence that sufficient consideration had been given to the response to the public consultation which was overwhelmingly against the appropriation of land for the purposes outlined in the Cabinet report.
The loss of open space for recreational purposes,
changes to Griffin Park, concerns about proposed housing at Sandy
Bay, lack of investment in tourism facilities, as well as the
impact on wildlife and ecology, which were not sufficiently
discussed during the Cabinet deliberations on this issue.
Whether the appropriation of all of the land was
necessary to enable the Porthcawl waterfront regeneration (which
might open the floodgates for housing) and why the option of a
reduction in the area of the land proposed for appropriation had
not been considered.
- The dichotomy between the process of the appropriation of the land and the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) process required further exploration.
- Porthcawl is a jewel in the Borough’s crown, and opportunities needed to be considered to regenerate it in a sympathetic manner which promotes tourism similarly to surrounding areas that benefit from tourism.
The Cabinet Member for Regeneration:
- Thanked the Committee for the invitation but indicated that as most decisions had been taken prior to her becoming a Cabinet Member and advised that Officers would be better placed to provide the background information.
- Advised that the appropriation of the land was necessary for the implementation of the Local Development Plan (LDP) that had been agreed at the previous meeting of Council.
- Highlighted that following emails with concerns from residents, Cabinet asked Officers to facilitate a site-visit for them which allowed them to envision how much open space would be available. In addition, following the Place Making Strategy the number of proposed houses had been reduced and the area for open space had been enlarged.
- Confirmed that Cabinet had also done a walkabout with local Councillors for them to see how much open space there would be and how Griffin Park would be extended, and that there would be a further walkabout arranged for local stakeholders.
- Advised that the new all-weather tennis court would be in place before the removal of the existing tennis courts and that this would be done in consultation with Porthcawl Tennis Association.
- Confirmed that whilst no decision had been made about exactly would be developed on the land, there would be commercial and leisure facilities that would enhance Porthcawl and that all stakeholders would be involved in any decisions made.
In relation to whether the appropriation of the land
was a separate issue to the CPO, whilst linked, confirmed that the
appropriate legal advice had been sought and they were separate
Felt that the 5 Ways of Working in the WBFG(W) 2015
Act had been met and highlighted the large need for housing and
that 30% would be for social housing.
- In relation to whether sufficient consideration was given to the project by Cabinet, she highlighted that Sandy Bay had been earmarked for development since the Development Plan in 2004 so was not new.
The Corporate Director – Communities:
Wished to make clear that the use of the land at
Sandy Bay and Coney Beach had not been pre-determined but that the
land had been appropriated, which was a legal mechanism to remove
its current use (as a caravan park), for planning purposes with the
intention to do extensive consultation as to what can be achieved
in the area.
- Clarified that due consideration had been given to all comments made by public and referred to Appendix 5 to the Cabinet report which detailed the main concerns from the over 600 responses they had. Data Protection legislation prohibited the responses being published in full in the public domain, but she confirmed that Cabinet Members had received a document which detailed every objection received.
- Confirmed that the draft plan was to increase the size of Griffin Park from 4 acres to 8 acres and create a long linear park and link Griffin Park to the monster park. Importantly, once designated as formal open space, land can be afforded protection.
- Advised that one of the objections was the need to take a corner off one of the Bowling Greens at Griffin Park in order to gain access to the site which may affect the tennis courts but, she highlighted that it was a disused bowling green which the Council had committed to replace and in relation to the tennis courts, the Council had committed to providing brand-new all-weather courts.
Another area of concern had been in relation to the
Veterans Hub which, she advised, was not fit for use due to
deterioration and the Council had committed to helping them find
new premises and working with the community on
- With reference to the Placemaking Strategy, confirmed that Coney Beach and Sandy Bay had been in the LDP as a strategic site after it ceased trading in the early 2000s. It was put into the LDP, as a potential housing allocation, in 2004, in 2014 and now again and she confirmed it was proceeding to Welsh Government for examination in public.
- In relation to the WBFG(W) 2015 Act, she highlighted the evolving nature of Porthcawl as a seaside town for residents and visitors and people’s right to have somewhere to live (including a need for affordable homes), to play, to have employment and to have education. They had looked at the plans in place and produced a Placemaking Strategy which had been consulted on with an exhibition in the Grand Pavilion and with 3 weeks of hoardings in Cosy Corner and adopted by the Cabinet in March.
- She confirmed the geographical extent of the Placemaking Strategy and advised that it had put together a strong vision for regeneration and at the heart of it was open space, active travel, community spaces, taking traffic away from the sea front, bringing the town centre and seafront together, a new school in the area, new homes (a proportion being affordable) and leisure opportunities. However, the detail of those would be part of consultation as the appropriation itself was simply the planning legislation to allow consideration of its future use.
- Advised that the need to appropriate all of the land was due to having no definitive planning permissions or decisions on what areas would be used for open space, for the new school, for housing where the roads would be and leaving any part of the land out of the appropriation would be pre-determining what can be done with the site in the future.
- Confirmed that the 5 ways of working was absolutely imbedded in everything they did and that it was necessary to ensure a sustainable future for young people. She referred to sections 2 & 7 of the Cabinet Report where the 5 Ways of Working had been considered and the Human Rights Act considerations at paragraphs 4.41 to 4.47.
- She advised that it has been made clear from the Placemaking Strategy that CPOs would be necessary to appropriate and clean the title of some of the land which did not have names or titles. She clarified that appropriation was planning legislation whilst a CPO was property legislation.
The Leader of the Council reiterated that the Placemaking Strategy had been extensively consulted upon including the face-to-face engagement at the Grand Pavilion and had been approved by Members at Council. He advised that the Council had responded to much of the public consultation with the inclusion of more public open space and highlighted the planned expansion of Griffin Park and plans to maintain, enhance and protect the relic dunes and the active travel network which would provide a truly integrated development for visitors and local residents. He also referenced the comprehensive consultation report that Cabinet received and considered.
The Principal Regeneration Officer presented Appendix 3 of the Cabinet report and highlighted the areas of planned open space and other qualitative improvements.
The Chairperson invited the public speakers listed below to address the Committee for a maximum of three minutes, in turn, with their comments, objections and representations regarding the decision of Cabinet (made at its meeting on 18 October 2022).
1. Jamie Strong
A Voice for the Future of Porthcawl
2. Don Tickner Porthcawl Civic Trust Society
3. Margaret Minhinnick Sustainable Wales
The comments, objections and representations made by the public speakers included the following:
- Why the area of the land proposed for appropriation could not be reduced, why it needed to include the relic dunes, why the area of land proposed for housing on Sandy Bay could not be reduced to create further protected recreational space, and why the extension of Griffin Park could not go to the desirable beach front at Sandy Bay.
- Noting that documentation referred to the appropriation enabling the land to be marketed to developers, whether there was any possibility of a public consultation on the development of the land or whether the use of the land had been pre-determined, highlighting that the LDP already referred to the number of houses that would be built on the land.
- Concern was expressed about the extent of the Council’s attempts at public consultation with reference to the Office of Future Generations Commissioner and the WBFG 2015 Act which state, it was crucial when developing plans, that planning authorities engaged with people in their own communities to have a participatory process, which focussed on achieving sustainable places and sets out a requirement which went beyond the statutory minimum consultation set out in planning legislation.
- Further concerns regarding the lack of real consultation with the public over the planning of the food store at Salt Lake and Cosy Corner highlighting the limited opportunities to engage or comment and that any opportunities fell short of the requirements of the WBFG(W) 2015 Act.
- Concerns about the lack of evidence of a true understanding of the WBFG 2015 Act which requires public bodies to demonstrate how their decisions meet the social, environmental, cultural and economic well-being for their community and Wales.
It was not clear if the five ways of working, intrinsic to the planning system, especially involvement, had been interpreted in line with the legislation, as had it been the case there would have been more than a consultation process and that it was not clear how collaboration, integration, prevention and long term had been utilised for the well-being of future generations of Porthcawl and Wales.
- There was a need for a more cohesive approach for professionals to work in partnership with people who have lived experience to inform, to redefine shared visions and values and to share the responsibility to achieve mutual, sustainable solutions throughout and the WBFG 2015 Act provides a delivery framework for all Council staff and elected Members.
The Senior Democratic Services Officer - Scrutiny confirmed that there had been no written representations or objections received.
In response to matters raised by the public speakers, the Corporate Director – Communities:
- Advised that the relic dunes were going to remain unchanged and would be protected and confirmed that it had been included in the appropriation as it had been part of the caravan park and had caravans on it.
With regard to the owners’ agreement,
everything required planning permission and consultation.
Confirmed that the consultation on the appropriation went above the minimum requirements and, in relation to Cosy Corner, whilst Welsh Government grant funding required a building for employment use, the Council were also providing open space and community facilities.
- Agreed that consultation and co-production were hugely important but highlighted that this matter was appropriation and that it was the detailed plans that would come next and committed to work with them to deliver a co-produced plan for what the community wants.
The Chairperson invited any other Members who had supported the Call In to speak and then invited any other Members of the Committee to ask questions or comment.
A Member queried, with reference to facilities in neighbouring areas, why there was no reference to facilities in the reports, what the cost had been to produce the draft plans and what the cost would be to produce new ones after public involvement.
The Corporate Director reiterated that the appropriation was a legal planning mechanism to allow detailed plans to come forward in the future which were not available until public consultation, but advised that the ambition was to be premier waterfront town.
In response to whether the planned road through Griffin Park would change, advised that it was key to a road into the development site and that the identified entrance was the only option due to a residential community at the top end. However, the size, scale and direction of the road had not yet been designed. She also highlighted the commitment to deliver homes but with a balanced and sustainable community.
In response to a question regarding the placement and accessibility of the new tennis courts, the Leader advised they would work closely with the Lawn Tennis Association and the local club regarding detailed plan, but the plans were to relocate the courts within the expanded Griffin Park and highlighted the benefit of the new courts being an all-weather facility.
The Chief Officer – Legal & Regulatory Services, HR & Corporate Policy reminded Members that the scope of the Call In was the Cabinet decision on the appropriation only.
In response to a question regarding her vision for Porthcawl, the Cabinet Member for Regeneration advised that she had lots of potential ideas including a wet area and indoor leisure facilities for visitors and residents and was keen to work with residents.
The Corporate Director - Communities in relation to a question regarding the responses to the public consultation clarified that all comments had been given to Cabinet but that they needed anonymisation for the public report. She also highlighted that where there had been similar comments, they had been included in Appendix 5 of the Cabinet report under themes and headings.
In response to a question as to how beach front properties, which normally attract a premium would be protected as affordable homes, the Corporate Director - Communities advised that the detail was not available yet but highlighted that a certain percentage of affordable homes was critical to creating sustainable communities.
In response to a question regarding Porthcawl Town Council (PTC), she confirmed that they were involved in the Placemaking Strategy as a key consultee and stakeholder, and they would continue to be moving forward. The Cabinet Member for Regeneration responded that they were also planning another walk through the site with stakeholder representatives.
The Corporate Director – Communities in response to a query regarding the funding for facilities within the new Griffin Park, advised that Griffin Park had been community asset transferred (CAT) to PTC and that the revenue support and maintenance was critical. She was keen to use S106 agreements for commuted capital sums to look after some of the infrastructure highlighting the difficult budget position and that facilities needed to be sustainable. Discussions with PTC would continue as to Griffin Park’s future.
In response to whether the proposed road through Griffin Park would affect the agreement with PTC, the Corporate Director - Communities advised that the corner which was proposed to be used for the road had been removed from the CAT and highlighted that old facilities could not be removed prior to the installation of new facilities.
The Leader assured that there would be partnership with PTC on the plans for Griffin Park.
A Member highlighted that there had been much discussion regarding Griffin Park but little regarding Sandy Bay apart from the reference to housing and queried whether there was already a vision or planned for the appropriated land.
The Corporate Director – Communities confirmed that there were high level and strategic plans and framework and advised that there were plans for 200 homes on Salt Lake and 900 on the appropriated land. However, she highlighted that the site would be much more than just that and although there was a very clear vision for the site, the detail could not be pre-determined due to the need for planning applications.
In response to a Member’s query, the Corporate Director confirmed that there had been 600 representations received regarding the appropriation, over 1000 regarding the LDP and similar amount on the Placemaking Strategy; so a high percentage of residents and also highlighted the large number of people who went to the exhibition and had their questions answered there.
In relation to infrastructure, that was a key part of the provision and she advised that new homes would not be introduced into a community unless it was sustainable and had facilities around it.
The Leader also highlighted the plans to extend the English-Medium education provision and the provision of Welsh-Medium education and childcare as well as the wider infrastructure for Porthcawl.
In response to a query as to whether referring the decision on the appropriation back to Cabinet for reconsideration would frustrate and delay plans to proceed to public consultation, the Leader advised that if the decision was referred back it would add time to the process and that they did not want to delay plans for Porthcawl. However, he highlighted although key principles had already been agreed by Council in approving the LDP, there were choices to be made and that they would take on board all views expressed regarding the consultation including how to consult and engage with the community on the detail.
The Chairperson invited Members of the Committee, having regard to whether it was satisfied with the responses, whether it wished to:
a) Refer the decision back to the Cabinet for reconsideration, setting out the reasons and rationale for the request;
b) Decide not to refer the matter back to the Cabinet.
RESOLVED: The Committee concluded that the Decision would not be referred back to Cabinet but made the following Recommendation to Cabinet:
a) That having regard to concerns expressed to Members by Porthcawl residents, views shared by public speakers and questions from Members, that Cabinet be requested that going forward for the next stages in the process that they involve Porthcawl Town Council, all stakeholders and the public in further consultation and engagement.