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Exchange of emails with the NPTC Planning Department


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During the COVID-19 pandemic the planning department at Neath-Port Talbot Council sent us letters and placed notices locally about a planning application by the housing developer Enzo Homes. We knew what was coming next because for the last 17 years, (since 2003) the Cuddy Group had been using the cover of a housing development to tip industrial waste on our doorsteps. In 2016 the height of the tip had reached Aberfan proportions, this concerned many of us so we grouped together to prevent the Cuddy Group from tipping further. We managed to do this and in 2018 the Cuddy Group went into receivership and land was purchased by Enzo.

On viewing the planning application (which was almost identical to Cuddy's) we could see that there was to be a considerable amount of land movement towards our homes. Many of us had been witness to the suspicious tipping actions of Cuddy, for example there were eyewitness accounts of barrels of chemical waste on the land and of asbestos being tipped. At one time the Cuddy Group were the 12th largest demolition contractors in the world and asbestos removal was one of their key operations. 

We reformed our 'resident's' action group but because several of our group are elderly and would be unable to meet in person we asked that the planning process be delayed until after the corona virus pandemic so that we could eventually meet and discuss the development. The planning department said 'no' and they they all went home to work.

This page contains a series of emails between myself (Dai Richards) and the Neath-Port Talbot Council. Sometimes I'm writing in the first person (for myself) and other times I'm writing with my family and the group in mind so you will find me moving between I and we regularly. What concerned us a group after the 2016 success was that the 2003 plans were still in place and that we had to start again from scratch so I've set out to understand why this has happened and have attempted to learn the planning process and its associated themes. Who better to ask then than the planning officer, someone I employ through the payment of my council tax. If he is employed by the Neath-Port Talbot Council and the reason that council exists is...............

".......to serve and represent the interests of its citizens and communities." (NPTC Corporate Plan 2019-2022

....... then he should answer my question without a fuss. However, there are three relevant questions to the planning process and previous planning applications that the NPTC Planning Officer Steve Ball will not answer directly. No matter how many different ways you ask the question and how many times you ask it. These are............

 

1. Are you allowed to put planning notices on private property without first requesting the permission of the owner of the property?

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The reason we ask this question is because a notice was put in my garden without my permission.

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2. If NPTC has to follow guidelines, protocols or regulations relating to the building of houses on landfill or brownfield sites?

The reason we ask this question is because historically the land has always been used as landfill, evidence shows this to be the case for the last 90 years. However,  it is not identified as landfill on the Local Development Plan. There must be rules about building on landfill sites, at least there were in 1989 and we are trying to find out if these are current or not. CLICK HERE FOR 1989 REGS

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3. Can [the planning department] provide evidence of how you worked together [with County Councillor Del Morgan] to ensure the removal of the land identified as contaminated in 2008. 

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The reason we ask this question is because the land in a 2008 geo-technical survey showed that in places  Arsenic, Zinc and Benzo(a)pyrene are almost 3 times above the accepted safe levels (20080500a-DO-TFIR-geo.rpt.cuddy.5.4). Both Arsenic and Benzo(a)pyrene are classified as grade 1 carcinogens.

 

EXCHANGE OF EMAILS

20200319a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo1 - Dai Richards to NPTC Planning asking for a delay in the planning application process because of COVID-19

Your ref: P2020/0195
Hi - I represent a group of residents from Brynhyfryd and Woodland Park in Glynneath who are opposed to the Enzo development in its current format. We base this upon the probability of additional flooding in the lower regions of the streets, the failure to test for land contamination to a suitable depth plus a number of other issues. 

The purpose of this email is not to place an objection to the planning department but to ask for an extension of the period for submitting comments to the planning application. Currently it is April 4th

Our reason for this is because of the COVID19 outbreak we are unable to meet as a group because of the requirement for social distancing. There are several elderly and/or vulnerable people living in our streets who I'm sure would like to contribute to the discussion. 

We would like to suggest that the planning application be put on hold until 21 days after the government notifies the country that social distancing is no longer a requirement for the elderly.. 

I thank for taking the time to read this email and hope that you will look favourably on our suggestion. regards - Dai Richards

20200319a-EM-NPTC-RICD-enzo2 - Nicola Lake, Planning Department to Dai Richards, she refuses to delay and suggests the elderly/vulnerable people use social media to communicate.

Dear Mr Richards,

Thank you for your email. This has now been registered on the application. However despite the current circumstances in relation to Covid 19 we are unable to hold the application until after the present circumstances have been relaxed. Instead we would suggest that you consider using social media to help you connect with your community and would remind you that anyone who wish to comment on the application should submit any comments they may have in writing to planning@npt.gov.uk. I hope this information is of assistance.

Regards, Nicola Lake.

20200319a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo3 - Dai Richards to Nicola Lake trying to understand why they are unable to hold the application. Also enquiring about the planning notice in my garden which was placed there in a shoddy child like without my permission. 

Hi Nicola - thanks for the reply, the older generation tend not to use social media as much so that is going to prove to be a problem. 

Can you explain why you are unable to hold the application please? 

Are you legally bound to proceed with it? - 

Please can you advise how many letters have gone out in respect to this planning please so that I can identify who is likely to have been contacted? 

It would also like it to be noted that the sign for planning that was placed on the telegraph pole in my garden (no 66) facing Waun Gron became loose within 24 hours of it being placed there and for the most part has been flapping in the wind and unreadable to local residents. Photos of its current condition are attached. It was placed in in an unsealed A4 poly pocket allowing the elements to affect it almost immediately. This is an extremely amateur (even childlike) attempt at notifying the public of an impending large scale development on their doorstep that could have a massive impact on their health and property. 

Your department, it would seem are not doing the best job they could with notifying local residents of this planning application and considering your failure to consider the elderly who have paid rates to the the council for many years I would suggest that you look closely at your standards, they are far below what I would expect for the £2000 council tax I pay a year. I request that you place this information on the application as well please for future reference. 

To confirm my request for information is as follows.

Can you explain why you are unable to hold the application please? 

Are you legally bound to proceed with the application? 

Can you advise how many letters have gone out in respect to this planning please so that I can identify who is likely to have been contacted?

thanking you in advance. regards - Dai Richards

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20200329a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo4 - No reply 10 days so a follow up email.

Dear Ms Lake - I am forwarding this email to you which was initially sent on the 19th March. Ten days have passed since this date and I have not received a reply from you. 

Please can you reply to the questions that I asked in relation to the planning application on the Enzo development in Glynneath. You will find these questions in the original email below. (see above)

I have copied Councillor Simon Knoyle to this email and would ask that he (Councillor Knoyle) please establish the reason why you (Nicola Lake) have not replied and that he record the images showing the condition of the planning notice placed in my garden. I would also ask if Councillor Knoyle could please establish whether or not the council have acted illegally in placing this notice on private property. It should also be noted that WPD, the owners of the telepgraph pole have been given notice to remove the pole from my property because they have not paid the wayleave due to us. 

My original email is below. - regards David Richards (66 Brynhyfryd, SA11 5BA)

20200330a-EM-NPTC-RICD-enzo5 - Nicola Lake to Dai Richards with information about the planning process and that the placing of a notice on private land is a civil matter. 

Dear Mr Richards,

Thank you for your further emails of the 19/03/20 and the two emails of the 29/03/20 regarding the proposed variation of conditions and amendments to the Residential Development scheme at land off Heol Y Glyn, Glynneath. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the delay in responding to your email of the 19/03/20, this was due to the considerable disruption that was caused by the necessary changes in circumstances brought about by the current Covid-19 situation plus two days annual leave.

In relation to your questions regarding the statutory consultation periods on planning applications. The regulations specify a period of 21 days for the statutory consultation period. While there is no facility to amend this regulation the Authority does accept all correspondence up to three working days before the determination of an application by planning committee and until the date of determination on all other planning applications. 

In regards the consultation exercise that has been undertaken by the Authority on this application – I can confirm that the normal requirements are for either the display of a site notice or the sending out of a letter of consultation to neighbouring properties who adjoin the red line of the application site – the Authority has undertaken both letters and site notices. A total of 48 letters have been sent out to residents within Heol Y Glyn, Woodland Park/Brynhyfryd (the north side of the road) and Waungron, together with 11 site notices which have also been put up along these same roads. As you can see the consultation exercise that has been carried out far exceeds the requires of the Planning Regulations.

The following information is in response to the questions within your email of the 19/03/20:

- All planning authorities are required to determine planning applications in a timely manner. The regulations specify that an application of this type should be determined with 8 weeks of the date of receipt of a valid application. If an Authority fails to determine the application within this time period they can try to negotiate an extension of time with the applicant – or the applicant can appeal to the Welsh Government’s Planning Inspectorate for failure to determine.

- In regards to your question as to whether the Authority is legally bound to determine the application – I would direct you to my response above.

- As stated above 48 letters of notification were sent out to residents closest to the application site within the streets set out above. Also 11 site notices were also displayed within these same streets. 

In relation to your emails of the 29/03/20 these did not contain any questions directed to myself, however in response to your question to Cllr Knoyle regarding the legality of placing a site notice on the wooden pole within your garden. I would advise that this is a civil matter and I would suggest that you would need to seek your own legal advice. (The reference to 'civil matter' would suggest that the planning department are admitting that they have broken the law and they believe it is not a criminal offence, police matter, rather it is a personal matter requiring a civil lawsuit. I would suggest that Nicola Lake has volunteered this information to avoid being asked it by Simon Knoyle. If we look at the original note to Simon Knoyle "I would also ask if Councillor Knoyle could please establish whether or not the council have acted illegally in placing this notice on private property." we will see that Nicola Lake has referenced the question but not answered it. 20200330a-IN-NPTC-RICD-notice1) 

I can confirmed that each of your four email have been record as correspondence in relation to application P2020/0195 and saved against the application electronic file.

I hope this information is of assistance to you, however I would direct your attention to the sections within both the site notice and the letter of neighbour notification that correspondence will not normally be entered into in response to letters of objection on planning applications. 

Regards, Nicola Lake

20200330a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo6 - Dai Richards to Nicola Lake - clarification of the placing of the notice

Hi Nicola - Thank you for your reply. Further to your email can you clarify please that the planning department has placed the notice in my garden (on private property) illegally. To quote your email.

"In relation to your emails of the 29/03/20 these did not contain any questions directed to myself, however in response to your question to Cllr Knoyle regarding the legality of placing a site notice on the wooden pole within your garden. I would advise that this is a civil matter and I would suggest that you would need to seek your own legal advice."

regards - Dai Richards - www.dai-richards.wales

20200401a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo7 - Dai Richards to Nicola Lake - no reply follow up email.

Hi Nicola - reference my email sent on 30th March (see email below) I was wondering if you could respond to this please? - Dai

forwarded email - Hi Nicola - Thank you for your reply. Further to your email can you clarify please that the planning department has placed the notice in my garden (on private property) illegally? To quote your email.

"In relation to your emails of the 29/03/20 these did not contain any questions directed to myself, however in response to your question to Cllr Knoyle regarding the legality of placing a site notice on the wooden pole within your garden. I would advise that this is a civil matter and I would suggest that you would need to seek your own legal advice."

regards - Dai Richards - www.dai-richards.wales

20200401a-EM-NPTC-RICD-enzo8 - Steve Ball to Dai Richards refusal to accept emails and deception about notice. (our notes in red)

Dear Mr Richards,

Your emails below have been copied to me and I thought it best if I respond. I am sure you will appreciate that things are very challenging at present, and we are adapting to new ways of working during the Covid-19 pandemic. This also means that neither I nor my Officers are able to respond swiftly to all correspondence, or to engage in email exchanges on cases. 

From your email below I note your continued concern about the site notice displayed on the telegraph pole on your property. Clearly when displaying site notices the intention is to ensure that as many people as possible in the area would view such a Notice and this site along with the ten other locations chosen, were considered to be appropriate. I acknowledge, however, that you have since advised that the pole is in your property. I do not however consider this to be illegal (Steve Ball in this instance is offering his personal opinion, he has taken the word 'illegal' as literal meaning a criminal offence. Our intention in this instance is to identify whether or not the person placing the notice has broken planning department protocols or guidelines about placing notices on private property and if we revisit the question asked to Nicola Lake we will see that it is a direct question about the planning department actions "Further to your email can you clarify please that the planning department has placed the notice in my garden (on private property) illegally" We can see from the planning officer's  response is that he is attempting to avoid the planning departments responsibility for breaking their own guidelines/rules/regulations. I would suggest that this is deception, he was asked a direct question and he is going to great lengths to avoid giving the correct answer - 20200401a-IN-NPTC-RICD-notice2) as you suggest but if you think this is the case then you should take your own advice. In the current circumstances, however, and given the clear intent to publicise an application which you are interested in, then I would hope you would agree that displaying the Notice was in the public interest. 

In any respect, I apologise that this has caused you concern and, accordingly, given your objection to its display on the pole would confirm that I am happy for you to remove the notice with immediate effect. This would not affect the publicity for the application which, as Nicola has explained previously, far exceeds the statutory requirement.

Finally I note that you have submitted representations on behalf of yourself and other members of the community. These will of course be considered as part of our assessment and ultimate determination of the application in question.

Kind regards  -  Steve Ball

Development Manager - Planning / Rheolwr Datblygu - Cynllunio
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council/ Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Castell-nedd Port Talbot Tel/Ffôn: 01639 686727 

20200401a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo9  - Dai Richards to Steve Ball - clarification of objections received on behalf of residents.

From: Dai Richards
Sent: 01 April 2020 16:35
To: Planning <planning@npt.gov.uk>; Nicola Lake <n.lake@npt.gov.uk>
Subject: P2020/0195 - Land South Of Heol Y Glyn Glynneath Neath - planning objections

Dear NPTC,

Due to the corona virus and the unavailability of the following options of placing a planning objection (website & written letter) I have objected to the development on behalf of the following residents. Please can you confirm that you have received objections from me for the following people before the 2nd April deadline and they have been registered against the application?

Jackie Lewis

Jack Kearns

Maureen Phillips

Nigel Taylor

June & Glen Wehko

Ron Rees

Pam & Morgan Thomas

Ivor Llewellyn

Iola Roberts

Joyce Jones

END OF LIST

regards Dai Richards - www.dai-richards.wales

20200401a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo10 (18.42) -  - Dai Richards to Steve Ball - rephrasing of question to avoid deception.

Dear Mr Ball - thank you for your consideration, I can see you taken the term 'illegal' literally, perhaps I should have used the word allow. I'll rephrase that question for you with that word so that it requires a yes or no answer. 

Are you allowed to put planning notices on private property without first requesting the permission of the owner of the property?.

regards - Dai Richards

 

20200402a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo11 (00.29)  - Dai Richards to Steve Ball - request for information and providing additional information.

Dear Mr Ball, 

There are two purposes to this email.

1. To request if NPTC has to follow guidelines, protocols or regulations relating to the building of houses on landfill or brownfield sites ? If so I would be pleased to receive this information. 

2. - To provide you with additional information on the planning for P2020/0195 to the objection made by my son Simon Thomas in which he included an analysis on the testing. His modesty prevented him from including his qualifications and experience which are BSc Hons and MSc in chemistry, he is also about to complete his PhD in chemistry and he has been working recently as a lecturer in the chemistry department at the University of South Wales. I provide you with this information in case you are wondering whether or not to take the analysis seriously.

I trust this email finds you in good health and look forward to receiving your reply in due course. regards - Dai Richards

20200402a-EM-NPTC-RICD-enzo12  - Email from Steve Ball, Planning Department to Dai Richards - The planning officer deliberately avoided answering our questions about the planning process and previous planning applications relating to the site, he did this without integrity, he also refused to answer any further questions by email. - (our notes are in red)

From: Steve Ball (planning) 
To: Dai Richards
Cc: Nicola Lake ; Cllr. Simon Knoyle ; Cllr. Del Morgan
Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2020 8:24 AM
Subject: RE: P2020/0195 - Land South Of Heol Y Glyn, Glynneath, Neath - planning objections

Dear Mr Richards

I note that you have been sending in many emails recently on the above application, including requests for information. I responded to one myself yesterday about the site notice on a telegraph pole on your property (not answered with integrity), to which you have sent a further response and question (which was not answered).

I wish to make it clear that even in ‘normal’ times, my Officers are unable to enter into correspondence on representations on applications due to the volume of representations received (as stated in our notification letters).

For this reason, and due to the number of emails you are sending during a period when we are experiencing challenging circumstances, I must advise that we will no longer be able to respond to your requests for information or respond to your questions. Instead, as you have done, please submit representations expressing any issues or concerns with the development, and these will be considered as part of our assessment of the application in question.

Please note that details on the number of representations received (currently 20, many of which are your own) (only 2 were mine, 10 I had submitted on behalf of elderly residents) on any application can be found online at https://planningonline.npt.gov.uk/ by searching for the above reference number. (only the number can be found on-line, the nature of the comments are not visible because the website is broken) 

I trust that you will be understanding of the above, and note that I am copying in both of your local Councillors so that they are aware of my stance on this matter, and so they understand that we must concentrate our resources during this challenging period on all applications and other matters before the Authority. (There would have been no need of him to write this email if he'd answered the relevant questions in the first place.)

Kind regards  -  Steve Ball

20200402a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo13 

Dai Richards
2 Apr 2020, 13:05
to Steve Ball, cllr.j.d.morgan, cllr.s.a.knoyle, n.lake, haulwenjones

Dear Mr Ball,

I am copying you and the aforementioned councillors to two emails. one from myself to Ms Lake, the other from Ms Lake to myself.

Email 1 is from myself to Ms Lake, the subject of which requests to delay the Enzo application because of COVID-19, at this point i time my business and my family have already been self isolating for one week setting up our business and lifestyle systems in readiness for a countrywide lockdown. You only had to look at what was happening in China and Italy to understand that this was inevitable.

(quote from email sent 19/3/2020) "Our reason for this is because of the COVID19 outbreak we are unable to meet as a group because of the requirement for social distancing. There are several elderly and/or vulnerable people living in our streets who I'm sure would like to contribute to the discussion."

Email 2 is from Ms Lake who refuses to delay because of COVID-19 and includes the following quote.

(email sent 19/3/2020) "However despite the current circumstances in relation to Covid 19 we are unable to hold the application until after the present circumstances have been relaxed. Instead we would suggest that you consider using social media "

It would seem to me that the problems you face now are of your own volition. Not mine. I have ended my self-isolation to contact these people (I didn't realise it at the time but I delivered a letter to a house where COVID-19 was present) and put my family at risk in the process.

With this in mind I will keep sending you emails because there are questions that highlight the negligence of your department that need answering and I am representing the decent people in my street who have paid their council over the years, people like 87 year old June and 92 year old Glen Wehko who spent years being unable to go into their garden because people like you have failed to enforce the planning regulations you set for the Cuddy Group.

Your council's lack of empathy for these people and your inefficiency as a department has caused this problem, not them, and not me.

Please note that I will understand if there is a reasonable delay to my emails, however should I consider the delay more than reasonable I will be cancelling the direct debit for the council tax on all my properties in Neath-Port Talbot. (eventually cancelled)

I hope you have a lovely day.

regards - Dai Richards

PS - I've copied Cllr Haulwen Jones to this email and the copied emails for the purpose of printing it and placing it on record with the Glynneath Town Council

20200405a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo14

Email from Dai Richards to Steve Ball & Councillor Del Morgan referencing Councillor Morgans's facebook post about how he was to going to make sure that planning checked for contamination etc at the site. The purpose of this email was to identify the actions that the councillor and the planning department had taken in 2008 when the site was previously identified as contaminated. Evidence in the form of an extract from the 2008 report was attached to the email.

The email was copied to Nicola Lake (planning), Haulwen Jones (Glynneath Town Council), Christina Rees MP, and the NPTC Leader Rob Jones. 

32-contamination-marked.jpg (377419 bytes)

Dai Richards
Sun, 5 Apr, 21:25
to Steve, Del, Nicola, Simon, haulwenjones, christina.rees.mp, cllr.r.g.jones

Dear Councillor Morgan & planning department

I refer to your facebook post about the removal of soils etc from the Enzo development and how you were going to...

"make sure everything is checked to be absolutely appropriate prior to the building of any houses" 

So that we can gauge the quality of your work as a councillor in combination with the planning department please can you both provide evidence of how you worked together to ensure the removal of the land identified as contaminated in 2008 from the same area. I note you were a councillor in 2008 when the Cuddy Group owned the land on which the attached survey was made .

The land is shown as contaminated and a danger to local residents. The planning department has received an email from one resident who is a former co-worker whose parents also live next to the site and both of whom have cancer. This resident has a perpetual problem with contaminated dust in dry spells and is fearful for the health of her family. I look forward to receiving this information from you Councillor Morgan together with the planning departments contribution.

Further to the planning departments refusal to answer pertinent questions last week, I'm offering you 14 working days to complete your reply then as well as cancelling the council tax on my properties in Neath Port Talbot, I will sending out a press release containing the relevant information to local and national newspapers.

This email is copied to:

Christina Rees MP (FAO Ciaran - for observation purposes)

Cllr Rob Jones, Council Leader (for information purposes)

Cllr Knoyle (for obseravtion and duty of care to the people of Glynneath)

Councillor Haulwen Jones for observation and reporting to the Glynneath Town Council.

Steve Ball, Nicola Lake - NPTC Planning Department for action purposes in liaison with Councillor Morgan

Attachments - 

20200401a-LE-LNEZ-to-NPTC-enzo.pdf - letter from local resident objecting to site (not linked for privacy to the individual concerned)

20080599a-DO-TRIR-geo.rpt.cuddy.pdf - Geo Technical and Geo-Environmental report 2008

contamination.jpg - extracts from report

32-contamination-marked.jpg (377419 bytes)

regards - Dai Richards  -  www.dai-richards.wales

20200407a-EM-RICD-NPTC-enzo15

Dai Richards
Tue, 7 Apr, 09:54
to Dai, Steve, Nicola, Simon

Dear Mr Ball and Councillors Knoyle and Morgan,

This email is directed at all three of you as employees of the NPT Council.

There is only one purpose to this email which is to request information about........

..... if NPTC has to follow guidelines, protocols or regulations relating to the building of houses on landfill or brownfield sites ?

If such information exists I would be pleased to receive it?

regards - Dai Richards  (sent twice & also sent twice by a resident of Woodland Park) - there was no reply to any of the four emails from any of the recipients.

20200409a-EM-NPTC-RICD-enzo16 - An email from Steve Ball to Dai Richards in reply to the email dated 5/4/2020 (CLICK HERE) which was copied to the council leader and MP. (Our initial notes are in red but there is a lot of information here which we are slowly sifting through, there's a lot of irrelevant information contained in this email so rather than comment on this we have just ignored it) The planning officer has again avoided pertinent questions and has refused to answer any further emails.  

Dear Mr Richards

I refer to the numerous emails you have sent in to the Council and to your ward members in respect of the above development, the latter of which have resulted in requests to myself for clarification.

I also refer specifically to my email to you on 2nd April 2020 which made it clear that due to the number of emails you are sending during a period when we are experiencing challenging circumstances, we will no longer be able to respond to your requests for information or respond to your questions (he refuses to do his job, does the NPTC code of conduct allow him to do this?). Instead, we invited you to submit representations expressing any issues or concerns with the development which will be considered as part of our assessment of the application in question. (how can we raise concerns if the planning officer uses methods of deception to avoid; or refuses to provide specialist knowledge relating to the planning process that is not readily available to the general public?)

Despite my email, your emails and request for information have continued / increased, and have now been followed by your recent decision to stop paying your council tax direct debit (despite your 14 day ‘deadline’ given on 5th April) (I first threatened this on 2/4/2020 and stopped paying my council tax based upon his refusal to answer the questions in my emails of 1/4/2020 & 2/4/2020 - It would seem that he is trying to discredit me here, the reason I was sending emails is because he refused to answer questions without deception.  I'm paying for him to allow this without first undertaking due diligence on the content of the soil. I feel like a Jew in the 1930s paying tax to Hitler. I'm trying to protect my family from this bloke allowing a company to dump a load of poison at my back door.). In response to your cancellation of your direct debit, I am advised that if this is the case then you will subsequently receive a bill as a referred payment. Now obviously the latter is not a matter for me in my role, but I am sure that any decision to withhold from paying Council Tax in these circumstances would be likely to be met by action from my Council Tax colleagues, though I trust that this will not be necessary.

Also despite my email, and in light of the continuing requests of my team and ward members, I have chosen to write to you for a final time to seek to clarify matters and respond to issues, after which I will again deal with your correspondence only as recorded objections to (or comment on) the application in question.

I deal with matters in turn below: -

Website Issues and Submission of Representations

Despite your claims, I can confirm that the website remains fully operational for access to application documentation. It may be that you are referring to the message on the site which states “Please note that this site is under development. Do NOT register your details at this time” but this does not affect consultation, while the website also emphasises that to comment on a planning application please email planning@npt.gov.uk including the application reference number. Moreover the letter of notification and the site notices make it clear that representations may still be sent in by post. (does this include the over 70s who are in isolation)

I would also like to confirm that while the 21 day deadline for submission of comment has passed, we will still continue to accept representations on the application until it is determined (or in accordance with Committee deadlines as identified on our website should it be reported to Committee).

Development on Brownfield Land / Contaminated Land (we didn't ask for development info, we asked for building regulations on landfill)

In your email of 5th April you state that “the land is shown as contaminated and a danger to local residents” and have also requested “... if NPTC has to follow guidelines, protocols or regulations relating to the building of houses on landfill or brownfield sites?”. You also refer to the 2008 ground investigation which concluded that there was evidence of contamination. (He doesn't answer these questions, in his response below he goes straight into his personal opinions about how common contaminated land is in NPT)

In response, I would wish to emphasise that the presence of contamination on sites is incredibly common on land within Neath Port Talbot, and this matter is routinely addressed in consultation with our specialists on land contamination matters, as well as in responses from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). In this respect it is important to understand that the presence of contamination does not make land “a danger to residents”. (we need clarification of this statement)

Although I am yet to receive a response to the current application from our specialists, at this stage, and in light of the extant planning permission (there is no evidence of extant pp) for development at the site, I see no reason why matters of land contamination cannot be addressed in the usual manner through imposition of conditions. (he has decided already to advise approval)

In terms of your specific question relating to ‘guidelines, protocols or regulations relating to the building of houses on landfill or brownfield sites’, (still doesn't answer the question, his response goes straight into current Welsh gov guidance) I would draw your attention to Welsh Government guidance in Planning Policy Wales 10 (pages 37 and 38). In essence these encourage developments on such land, though it does note if land is “highly contaminated” (3.51) it may not be suitable for development.

Our land contamination colleagues also have specific technical guidance they follow when considering the need to remediate and verify works on contaminated land. For example Welsh Government guidance refers to: BS10175 (2011) Investigation of Potentially Contaminated Sites Code of Practice; and the Welsh Local Government Association and the Environment Agency Wales ‘Development of Land Affected by Contamination: A Guide for Developers’ (2012). 

Freedom of Information Request

I note that your email of 6th April 2020 refers to a ‘Freedom of Information request’, although would note that planning information is covered by the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004.

I also note that your email relates to the existing planning application P2020/0195 and requests the following: -

· How many planning objections included the following information about possible deliberate contamination of the Enzo Development site?

· How many mentioned asbestos?

· How many mentioned the possible tipping of chemical waste?

· How many eyewitness accounts were there of the possible tipping of contaminated waste?

· What date did the NPTC or Glynneath TC inform Natural Resources Wales of a possible large scale tipping of contaminated waste?

In response, I would advise that such information on a current planning application is already publicly accessible and therefore not covered by EIR. In ‘normal times’ we would try and assist and would simply make an appointment for you to view the planning file, though I regret this is not possible at this time. In light of the ongoing assessment of the application, and receipt of representations from you and other residents, I would advise that responses to these questions can nevertheless be addressed in the Officer’s assessment of the application in question. (he is saying here that this information exists but you can't see it and I will decide what is important for the planning committee - I am God) 

I would also advise that you are no doubt already of the nature of representations made, since many of these have come via yourself. But would confirm that many do raise issues of concern relating to the presence of contamination and allegations of tipping of contaminated waste. While I further note that the ‘tipping’ was in accordance with a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) license (such matters having been investigated previously at this site) (request this info), in any event my colleagues in Land Contamination and NRW will ensure they are wholly satisfied that any development at the site would provide appropriate mitigation to limit the risk to public health or groundwater. (This statement is unacceptable, he uses the term 'limit the risk' when talking about people's lives, this man really is God, he is the one, the only term we will accept is 'eradicate the risk') 

If you are dissatisfied with the response to your request, under the Authority's FOI Policy, you may appeal in writing setting out the reasons why you think the decision is erroneous, to the Authority's Monitoring Officer at the following address: - Head of Legal & Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer, Civic Centre, Port Talbot, SA13 1PJ

In the event that you appeal and are dissatisfied with that response, you may then appeal direct to the Information Commissioner, whose address is: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, SK9 4AF.

In the current circumstances, however, and given the above response which emphasises that all such matters will be considered as part of the current application, I trust that you will agree such a course of action would not be reasonable.

Delaying Determination during Covid-19

On 19th March you were advised that despite the current circumstances in relation to Covid 19 we are unable to hold the application until after the present circumstances have been relaxed. This remains the case, and I am also confident that the application has been appropriately publicised and opportunity remains for interested local residents to engage and submit comments or objections on the application.

I would also like to assure you that determination of the application will only progress once we are satisfied the development is acceptable in planning terms subject to any necessary conditions.

Future Communications

Finally, while I have responded in detail to the above, I wish to emphasise my earlier advice that we will no longer respond to your requests for information or respond to your questions. Instead, any representations you make or have made expressing any issues or concerns with the development will be considered as part of our assessment of the application in question. (refuses to answer any questions)

Should your local Councillors raise any matters with me that require a response prior to finalising our report, then we will engage with them direct. 

Once again, I trust that you will be understanding of the above, and understand that we must concentrate our resources during this challenging period on all applications and other matters before the Authority. 

I also trust that the above detailed response covers matters raised to date, and that you will be able to restrict further communications to representations raising your main issues of your concerns relating to the application in question.

Regards - Steve Ball

Development Manager - Planning / Rheolwr Datblygu - Cynllunio
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council/ Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Castell-nedd Port Talbot Tel/Ffôn: 01639 686727 

Email / E-bost: s.ball@npt.gov.uk

 

Following the planning officers 2nd refusal to answer questions about this and previous planning applications we directed our next email to the Council Leader - CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS EMAIL 

 

 

"He who belies his talent, the born painter who sells stockings instead, the intelligent man who lives a stupid life , the man who sees the truth and keeps his mouth shut, the coward who gives up his manliness, all these people perceive in a deep way that they have done wrong to themselves and despise themselves for it." - Abraham H Maslow

 

 

 

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