Wales

Inquiry calls over Brecon Beacons planning management

There are calls for an inquiry into the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority after rows involving its planning department.

BBC Wales' Week In Week Out hears claims the authority is making too many mistakes and failing to communicate properly over some planning applications.

It lost more than half of the 26 appeals against decisions last year.

The park said it was "proud" of improvements to its planning service.

Powys county councillor John Morris is a long-standing critic of the park authority's planning department.

'Unaccountable'

He accused them of being "…incompetent, they're arrogant and there is no accountability to the local community and that's half the problem.

"We try to survive in the park against this backdrop of an unelected membership who have no responsibility to the community and officers who are unaccountable."

He told Week In Week Out there should be a wider national debate on the park authority's role and he demands that its planning duties be taken away from it.

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority was the centre of controversy nearly three years ago following a highly critical report on its handling of a planning application for a caravan site at Gileston Farm, near Talybont on Usk.

The report recommended major changes to the way the planning department conducted its business.

In a statement the park said it is "…proud of the improvements it has made to the planning service to date."

The park authority also said it has many examples where the system has worked well.

Disillusioned

But while the park now determines planning applications faster, other figures show that the authority processed fewer applications last year than the year before and also that it lost just over half of the appeals made against its planning decisions last year.

But the park says so far this year it has improved on that record.

Ashford Price, the owner of the national showcaves at Dan Yr Ogof, which is just inside the national park, says the planners are making too many mistakes.

He has won two appeals against the authority in just over a year and says he is so disillusioned with the park's decisions that he will no longer be investing in the business.

He said: "This company has already made a decision that in future…we are going to put all our future investment into a ski-resort in France, in Meribel."

In another case, the authority is being criticised for the way it has handled a planning application for an energy-to-waste plant called an anaerobic digester proposed for a farm near Talgarth.

High court

The scheme was unanimously accepted and then shortly afterwards unanimously rejected. The farmer then appealed to the Welsh Assembly Government inspector and won but now the authority is challenging his decision in the High Court.

Brecon Beacons National Park Authority said: "It is in the wider public interest for the authority to seek clarification of how the inspector concluded that this proposal complies with the approved policy in relation to farm diversification".

The MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, Roger Williams, said that instead of legal action it should simply ask the inspector why he had made his decision.

Mr Williams said the park had improved its performance since the Gileston affair but still had work to do.

"I believe the public perception of the park is poor and that's really caused by very, very poor performance over the last number of years.

"Now it's gone some way to improve that perception but there is a lot more that could be done, he added."

Week In Week Out: Parklife, is on Tuesday 2 November at 2235 GMT on BBC1 Wales.

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