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Grant questions multiply

county hallA DOCUMENT relating to the development of 29 Dimond Street by controversial “Baron of the Bedsits” Cathal McCosker has shed fresh light on the way the scheme was viewed by planning officers at Pembrokeshire County Council.

The document, dated January 8, 2013, is a decision on the planning application. Its author seeks to address concerns about the potential for anti-social behaviour at the property and also argues that giving the scheme permission would enable the Council to say it was meeting a statutory obligation to provide affordable social housing when the development did not, in fact, meet the statutory criteria for the discharge of that responsibility.

In common with all local authorities in England and Wales, Pembrokeshire has an obligation in law to provide affordable housing. The guidance provides that:

“Affordable rented housing is let by local authorities or private registered providers of social housing to households who are eligible for social rented housing. Affordable Rent is subject to rent controls that require a rent of no more than 80 per cent of the local market rent (including service charges, where applicable).”

As the property was not let by the local authority and the developer of 29 Dimond Street is not a registered provide of social housing, the property does not fall to be categorized as “affordable housing” under the terms of national planning guidance.

The document states: “Whilst HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupation – jargon for bedsits) do not meet the specific planning definition of affordable housing they … meet the needs of those unable to purchase or rent market housing.”

The document also deals with concerns about anti-social behaviour would result from letting 29 Dimond Street as a HMO. The report states that:

“ … the use of this property has caused concern to the Town Council, however, this appears to be the result of the anti-social behaviour of certain individuals in a nearby development.”

The report omits to mention that the nearby development referred to is another Cathal McCosker development at 10 Meyrick Street. Details of that conduct were controversially withheld from planning committee members when they came to consider a planning application in relation to that property’s use.

The 10 Meyrick Street property was the subject of a fiery meeting of the County Council’s planning committee on January 8, 2013. At that meeting a retrospective application for 14 bedsits at the former NatWest bank was turned down. On that occasion it emerged that Council officers had known of a long-standing breach of planning permission by the developer, done nothing about it and granted a licence to Mr McCosker to run that property as a HMO in breach of the Council’s own planning permission.

The following day, January 9, 2013, the same officers used their delegated powers to grant permission to the development at 29 Dimond Street without public scrutiny of the application.