Roundhouse, Brithdir Mawr, application 06/381


Att’n Vicky Hirst, copies to Mr Nick Wheeler and Martina Dunne.


This is in reply to your email to me, Tony Wrench, and copy of your report dated 13th Dec 2006.  In your last letter to us, addressed to Jane Faith, you stated that this application would be referred to the January committee meeting. Jane therefore booked and paid for a training course that will take place next week. This means she will not be able to attend the committee meeting and would like to express her disappointment at this change. I also feel that this report is rushed and I am urging you to withdraw it and to postpone any committee consideration of the application until you have effectively addressed the points below.


May I say first of all that the factual summary of the report up to your consideration of the Criteria within Policy 50 is very thorough and well expressed, and we are glad that you consider that so many aspects of our application fall within the new policy. The only inaccuracy is that the land is owned by the Roundhouse Trust, of which we are the trustees.


Our predominant feeling on reading your conclusions and recommendations, however, is that you have not fully taken on board both the lessons to be learned from your advocate’s encounter with the county court judge and ourselves last year, and the spirit of the new policy 50, which, as I recall, expressed an intention for applications under it to be a process of negotiation and consultation.  Why you did not get the injunction you sought last year was because the judge acknowledged our arguments that planning guidance requires planners to negotiate in enforcement cases. He did not accept your counsel’s argument that it was enough just to carry out your ‘statutory obligations’.  But here you are, doing it again! Maybe we should have floated this application to you in rough form first, but then maybe your advice to applicants could suggest that. It seems to me that there are enough points where you accept that this application falls within Policy 50 for the remainder to be discussed, rather than used as a premature reason for outright refusal. Here, therefore, are our initial responses to the main sticking points in your report.


1.      Disturbance to habitats.  I do not know whether you allowed much time for your ecology consultant to take on board the points made in our ecological assessment report, but she seems to have ignored the positive aspects completely. Her main point seems to be that a reed bed and a garden impose different habitats on what was once semi-natural farmland.  Well, yes they do – they diversify it. Just a bit, but appreciably. What was once a bracken-covered bank bordered by a goat-ravaged hedge (ask her what she thinks of bracken - she used to have a very hostile and inorganic approach to it) is now a garden, as required to grow our own fruit and vegetables. And the reed bed (involving transplanting some native reed mace and yellow flag plants 150 metres from one field to the next)? Policy 50 requires sewage and waste water systems to be sustainable and on site.  Vicky, you are never going to be able to say yes to any application under policy 50 unless you acknowledge that a low impact development will need a reed bed and a garden!  This advice you have been given is not up to speed with the very essence of policy 50 – it is not compatible with it.


2.      Woodland. We have been in negotiation with the owner of the adjoining woods to have control/ownership of the hectare or so of wood going down to the river. Although I do not agree that we would need that much to be sustainable without depleting the woodland, because figures like your consultant’s are often based on heavily exploitative systems, this extra area would certainly be enough.


3.      Polytunnel and polycarbonate workshop roof. OK, we don’t like plastic and would be quite happy to use recycled glass instead. Why not just ask us.



4.      Aesthetic criteria. We could argue all night about whether our house looks beautiful or not. It has been supported by hundreds of people in all walks of life, including the then head of the school of Architecture in the University of Wales. Big pictures of it lined the walls of the Photographers’ Gallery in London for weeks early this year. That quote you use is the most poisonous and negative by far. The point is, though, that the rules have now changed. Your new policy accepts that a low impact development will not necessarily meet established criteria for a ‘normal’ new farm cottage.  It is simply pointless to use an outdated criticism of the look of our house unless you want to sway councillors in some emotional negative way. And why bother to do that? This new policy should be an opportunity for radically new and different styles of energy-efficient dwellings to be built in response to the challenges of global warming, rural depopulation and homelessness.


 Your authority wanted to exclude the Park from this new policy but the Welsh Assembly Government and other objectors ensured that it stay in. It has been formulated in a very positive spirit but it is now up to you to put it into practice. This report does not show acknowledgement of the need for this to be a consultative process. I have put forward several points that we would have made as part of that process. I am sorry if this sounds peremptory, and would have much preferred to discuss sticking points amicably with you.  But, given this time pressure, we ask you to withdraw this edition of your report, as a first draft; to consider the above points; to redraft and negotiate as appropriate; and to present it again in the new year.


Yours faithfully,

Tony Wrench and Jane Faith