A MEMBER of Conwy’s planning committee has been asked by the council to stop working on an allotments project proposed for Abergele.
Abergele councillor Andrew Wood applied to Conwy’s planning department, seeking permission to create 50 allotments on his agricultural land next to Manorafon Farm, Llanddulas Road, Abergele.
But Cllr Wood says the problem has been caused by an expired contractor licence and that he only wants the allotments to benefit the community.
His plans though have divided the town, with the council receiving 29 letters of objection and 19 letters of support.
A spokeswoman for Conwy County Council said Cllr Wood had been asked to stop work at the site.
“Planning Enforcement Officers have asked for work to cease in respect of a water pipe being installed within the boundary of a site at land next to Manorafon Farm, Llanddulas Road, Abergele,” she said.
The council’s intervention follows Conwy planning officers investigating when a 200-year-old grade two listed boundary wall was taken down earlier this year, which Cllr Wood claimed was for safety reasons.
Residents objecting to the allotments fear the plans could create noise, parking problems, and an increase in traffic in the area, with many also complaining the allotment could have a detrimental effect on nearby Gwrych Castle.
Those in support of the application argued that the allotment would benefit the community, encouraging people to use green spaces whilst improving residents’ physical and mental health.
Cllr Wood spoke exclusively to the Local Democracy Reporting Service earlier this year, claiming there was a vindictive crusade being led to discredit him.
The allotment plans were initially withdrawn, amended, and resubmitted with changes on April 4.
But some residents ‘strongly objected’ to the plans.
One such letter was written by Robert Latham who owns land adjacent to Cllr Wood. He accused him of starting work before planning consent was obtained.
“We wish to strongly object to the planning application submitted by Cllr Andrew Wood, a planning committee member, for the development of a grade-two listed greenfield site into allotments,” the letter read.
“We are shocked to witness the works beginning prior to planning approval and urge the planning committee to dismiss the application.
“We note that planning enforcement has stopped Cllr Wood from continuing development as it is in breach of planning law. None of the above is satisfactory, and even less so, given that Cllr Wood is an elected member and sits on the planning committee at Conwy.”
The letter also accuses Cllr Wood of attempting to obtain right of way through neighbours’ land by ‘stealth’ by submitting ‘Right of Way’ and ‘Village Green‘ applications to the council.
But Mr John Ware was one of 19 residents who wrote in support of the application.
“I believe an allotment site would be greatly beneficial to the community of Abergele,” he wrote.
“An allotment is a great way to start healthy eating and encourage a healthy lifestyle.”
Cllr Wood claimed the work was above board and being carried out by a utility company.
Cllr Wood said a contractors’ licence to work on the land had simply expired, leading to confusion.
“This seemingly relates to the new utilities being provided by DWR Cymru and Scottish Power,” he said.
“The companies decided, in a very late decision, to jointly install both supplies under the A547 road in one trench to the boundary wall from Eldon Drive. This meant minimum disruption and only one trench.
“New utilities provision on a site does not require planning consent, nor does the stipulated and contracted provision of a supply trench within the boundary to receive these services within cabinets.”
Cllr Woods explained he had made changes to the application and resubmitted the plans in the hope of pleasing residents.
“We’ve listened to people from the previous application submission and withdrew it and took out certain aspects people weren’t happy with,” he said.
“We have got 40 people already signed up waiting for them (allotments). I know there are 337 on the council’s waiting list for the whole area, and I know the town council has 36 on Abergele’s waiting list waiting for allotments.
“This is what it is all designed to do, to provide allotments for these people. I bought the land myself. I planted the trees myself.
Everything that is there, the electricity, the water, it is all funded by me personally.”
He added: “In regards to some of the comments from Mr Latham, I’ve never met him, never spoken to him, never emailed him, never had any dealings with him whatsoever. I find it really strange that he has witnessed certain things. It’s not right.
“Are there people with allotments down there? No. Are there things happening down there? No. The work has stopped. The only thing that is being repaired is a couple of fences and a wall. Everything is waiting for planning.
“I’ve planted 40 trees there. That, I’m allowed to do. I’ve sought advice. I’ve planted hedges. I’m allowed to do that. I’ve put all the bird boxes up. I’m allowed to do that. I’ve got my own allotments at the top, which are mine. They’ve been there for 12 years.”
Cllr Wood said: “I’m used to things being vindictive now. It doesn’t worry me. I don’t really care about it. But it detracts from what we are trying to achieve, and that is to provide allotments for the town of Abergele, which hasn’t had allotments for 50 years. I seem to spend a lot of time dodging flak from castle supporters. It does waste my time. I’ve lots of things I want to go forward with for the community.”
The planning application will be considered by Conwy’s planning committee at a future meeting.