west*wales*news*review

West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Road Built Without Permission — But Councillors Say OK

Landowner at Maesybont allowed to retain newly constructed 550-metre tarmac road

Ffynnon Luan is a smallholding in Maesybont, Carmarthenshire, on a ridge of carboniferous limestone.

Carboniferous limestone has many industrial uses. It is quarried for roadstone and aggregates, is used in cement making, and in ground-up form for desulphurisation of flue gases.

Ffynnon Luan was up for auction late in 2014, a total of 35.4 acres surrounding the stone, unmodernised farmhouse, and yard of dilapidated buildings. With its small, hedged fields and woodland, Ffynnon Luan was a step back in time. The guide price was £180,000.

The buyer was Mr Andrew Thomas, owner of Blaenpant Farm, which is also on the limestone but on the other, southern side of Maesybont village. Blaenpant has been at the centre of planning controversy since soon after Mr Thomas purchased it in 2001 (see here, here and here).

Blaenpant lies within the Cernydd Carmel Special Area of Conservation, which means an area of such high ecological value that it is of European importance. Mr Thomas’s quarrying, land moving and road building, carried out without permission, totally altered his portion of the SAC. Natural Resources Wales told him to restore it, as far as possible – it can never return to how it was.

Retrospective planning permission enables people to carry out development, then apply for permission once the work is completed. Sometimes there are fines, but often the increased site value dwarfs any penalty. If a planning authority imposes an Enforcement Notice, requiring work to cease or be reverse, the fine can be up to £20,000 in a Magistrates Court, or unlimited in a Crown Court. Local authorities are short of money, though, and need to choose their legal battles very carefully, and sparingly.

Ffynnon Luan, which is not within the Special Area of Conservation, now has a super new road, about 3.5 metres wide and running for 550 metres across the smallholding to the B4297, in addition to the original access onto a single-track lane. Mr Thomas’s planning consultants, JCR Planning, told Carmarthenshire’s planning committee as part of a retrospective application, that “it is proposed to solely use this access for heavy vehicles transporting livestock, feeds and implements to Ffynnon Luan as part of the restoration of agriculture at this holding”. Without the new road, vehicles would have to use the lane, which lacks passing places and is flanked by deep drainage ditches, JCR Planning argued.

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Google Earth image dated April 18th 2015, showing the new road under construction, and three heavy lorries on it 

The road was constructed, without planning permission, in 2015.

Field hedges were also removed, apparently as part of Mr Thomas’s intention to improve the agricultural land in preparation for keeping beef cattle and sheep. The hedges are subject to a replacement notice.

Ffynnon Luan before road construction started. (Photo is among the documents considered as part of the retrospective planning application) 

This week, Carmarthenshire’s planning committee considered Mr Thomas’s application for retrospective planning permission for the road. Cllr Mansel Charles (Plaid Cymru, Llanegwad) proposed a site visit, but this was rejected by a single vote. The committee went on to give permission for the road, with only three councillors against, and one abstention.

Given that a typical cost for a tarmac footpath is over £40 a square metre,[i] a path of 550 metres by 3.5 metres would cost £77,000 or more, without even considering earthworks, drains or culverts, gates or fences. Ffynnon Luan does not have a new footpath, but a road intended for heavy vehicles and farm implements.

I guess Mr Thomas is anticipating a substantial uplift in the profitability of livestock farming, which on a 35-acre farm might be expected to provide a profit of less than £5,000 a year.[ii]

 

[i] ‘Estimating guide for path projects’, from the Paths for All Partnership, Scotland, 2014

[ii] ‘Welsh livestock survey shows gap between best and average farms’, by Debbie James, Farmers Weekly, November 19th 2014

PDR

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2 thoughts on “Road Built Without Permission — But Councillors Say OK

  1. Patricia breckman on said:

    Very good article and spot on. It’s a rerun of the industrial developments at Blaenpant. Sheds, hardstands, yard areas and roads allowed on the basis A. Thomas was going into farming. Of course he didn’t, he ran haulage from there for years until a Public Inquiry exposed it and he was made to find alternative premises for his lorries. More astonishing is that Eiffion Bowen (retired Head of Planning) denied it for years and years. Looks as though Ffynnon Luan could become another haulage yard, this time with the help of the local councillor Gynn Evans. I hope not as the B4297 is most certainly not suitable for such huge lorries especially with the little school soclise to tge road.

    • Councils which allow industrial development under the guise of ‘agricultural’ are depriving themselves of revenue in business rates etc, as well as failing to look after the landscape and the interests of nearby residents. Instead of admitting their mistake and correcting it, they turn a blind eye.

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