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Campaigners celebrate quashing of plans to build business park on family farm

  Gethin Jenkins hopes to pass Model Farm on to his son Rhys, but Legal & General wants to develop a business park on the land. IMAGE by GLYN EVANS

Campaigners are celebrating the reversal of a decision to approve plans to build a business park on a family farm in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Planning permission was granted for the business park on Model Farm, east of Cardiff Airport, in July. But Vale of Glamorgan council has now quashed that decision.

Legal issues have arisen surrounding how much financial information was published in a planning report on the decision, and local politicians are pressing for answers.

The issues involve Section 106 agreements and how much the developers were obliged to fund local infrastructure and public services.

Vale Communities Unite is a community group set up to save Model Farm from the development. After fundraising for legal fees, the group issued proceedings for a judicial review.

Maxine Levett, campaigner and local resident, said: “We’re very happy, we feel very relieved and very ecstatic that we have got to this point. We feel we have had some justice from the dismissive way that planning committee was conducted.”

It is unclear what will happen next. Legal and General, the landowners who applied to build the business park on the farm, could contest the decision, leaving the issue to be fought out for months in court.

If they don’t contest the decision, the application could come back to the council’s planning committee by the end of the year, according to a source familiar with the matter. The committee could then decide to approve the application again, or refuse permission. The campaigners are also writing to the Welsh Government to call in the application.

The campaigners are hoping recent pledges from the Welsh Government and Vale council on climate change and biodiversity could mean planning permission is refused. Both recently declared a climate emergency and a nature emergency. The council is also working on a wide-ranging strategy to cut carbon dioxide emissions, called Project Zero.

Ms Levett said: “We know there’s still a battle to come. We don’t know what Legal and General will come back with. Will it go back to planning again? I’m hoping not, given the climate and nature emergencies, and Project Zero. I would hope they would have a rethink, especially now they know the public is so upset by the proposal.

“We will have to remain vigilant. They could bring it back to planning at any time, and no doubt they’re going to try again. Our aim is to stop the outline planning permission. We don’t feel this is the end.”

Vale Communities Unite is still raising funds for legal fees, expecting a protracted battle over the application. The group is holding a gin and jazz night on Wednesday, September 15, at Fonmon Castle.

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies, who is the MS for South Wales Central and Vale councillor for Rhoose, is pressing for answers on the errors in the planning report.

Writing to Councillor Eddie Williams, cabinet member for legal, regulatory and planning services, he said: “I would be grateful if you would specify all the information that should have been disclosed within the officers report, but was not released as required.

“I trust the authority has established how these failures occurred, so I would be grateful if you would outline these reasons. Similarly, what measures are the council putting in place to ensure these errors are not repeated?

“There is considerable public interest in this application. I would therefore be grateful if you would confirm the expected timeline of how things will proceed, and when the application is likely to come back before the planning committee for determination.”

The council was asked to comment. A spokesman said they would not comment further on the statement provided on Monday, September 13.

According to a source familiar with the matter, the legal issues stem from the planning officer report not including a viability assessment. This is used by developers who claim they cannot afford to contribute their full obligations under Section 106 policy, and still make enough profit, usually 20 per cent.

Viability assessments are often left out of planning officer reports, but they tend to include information like how much the developers paid for the land, how much it would cost to build the development, and how much they could sell the development for after its built. The source claimed the Model Farm report did not set out why this was kept confidential.

Further questions on the planning application are likely to be asked of council chiefs during the next meeting of the Vale full council, on Monday, September 20.

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