Cul-de-sac residents seeking dispute over access road for judicial review in development site.
RESIDENTS in a cul-de-sac in Bridgend who have jointly spent thousands of pounds battling a decision to open up their street as access to a new development are waiting to hear if a High Court judge will overturn it.
The group of residents in Walters Road are seeking the judicial review in relation to a development of 15 homes on the old Coed Parc Library site, off Park Street.
It was given approval in December 2017.
While residents in Walters Road support the development they object to the way 10 of the homes will be accessed by extending their cul-de-sac onto the site.
They say the original entrance off Park Street - the A473 - which is being used for five homes should be used for all 15, highlighting road safety issues at the St Leonard's Road/Park Street junction, which would be used by vehicles accessing their homes via their cul-de-sac. The site, which includes a Grade II-listed building, was sold by Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) to Wales and West Housing Association in 2012.
In 2016 Wales & West's commercial subsidiary, Castell Homes, applied to develop the site with one application for all 15 homes and a separate one seeking consent to convert the listed building into two homes.
The plans prompted 26 residents to sign a petition, with some writing objection letters over the access issue, as well as two local county councillors, and the town council.
However, instead of the application going before the council's planning committee, officers considered it under delegated authority, refusing the full application but approving the listed building consent in August 2017.
Residents believe the consent was illegal because under BCBC's scheme of delegation, the local authority should deal with applications at its planning committee when more than two neighbours submit "a material planning objection in writing which has not been resolved by negotiation or through the imposition of conditions".
Residents argue the refusal for the full application was based on a "weak argument" involving road safety issues driving into Walters Road from St Leonard's Road - they point out that there haven't been any accidents over the last two decades at the junction.
They say that this, together with the listed building consent, paved the way for a planning inspector to easily overturn the council's decision and permit the entire development as soon as Castell Homes appealed.
Resident Alistair Nelson, who has led the street's battle against the access plans, said: "We put up a strong case against the access proposals based on road safety, particularly at the St Leonard's Road/Park Street junction, where several accidents have occurred in recent years.
"But Castell Homes claimed they could not use the original entrance off Park Street for the whole site because it is not wide enough, when in fact it is wider than St Leonard's Road and for 42 years it carried double the two-way traffic expected from the residential development, as well as service vehicles, serving the library and council offices on the site.
"In spite of our strong arguments, the inspector allowed the appeal and did so only by using written representations even though we had asked for an inquiry."
Despairing at the situation, residents in Walters Road asked that the Welsh ministers, via cabinet secretary for planning Lesley Griffiths, revoke the listed building consent, saying it was "illegally" approved by delegated authority rather than going before councillors on the planning committee. Mr Nelson said: "We had the support of all three regional Assembly Members - Dai Lloyd, Bethan Jenkins and Suzy Davies - and Bridgend AM Carwyn Jones has also expressed concern but the Welsh ministers have refused to do this on spurious grounds.
"Their argument is that the access proposals were not relevant to the listed building application, but that is not correct.
"The relevant Planning (Listed Buildings) (Wales) Regulations 2012 state that if there is any work proposed exterior to a listed building, then access proposals have to be included in the application, which they were.
"There is massive work proposed exterior to the Coed Parc listed building, 14 extra dwellings, including one in a new extension on the west side of the building, which is to be accessed via Walters Road, while the main part of the building is to be accessed off Park Street."
Mr Nelson has now lodged an application at the Cardiff High Court for a judicial review of the decision not to revoke the listed building consent by the Welsh ministers.
He said: "If we lose this, it means local planning authorities throughout Wales are at liberty to break the law by bending the rules."
Bridgend County Borough Council denies it has broken any rules, saying the planning inspector's decision on site access was "unrelated to the listed building consent granted by the council, which related only to the works on the buildings".
A council spokesman said: "The Coed Parc application was processed and dealt with in full compliance with all relevant planning rules and regulations.
"We have met with the residents to clarify the planning process and to offer further advice."
A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We are currently awaiting the court's decision on the application for leave to seek a judicial review and are therefore unable to comment."
Mr Nelson is expecting to hear the outcome of his High Court application within the next few weeks.