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Solicitor warns councillors after meeting descends into language row

PLANS by a couple to build a new home in a rural North Wales community so they can return home from Cardiff have sparked a row.

The application, to demolish a shed and build a property in its place on at land at Lliwedd, Llangernyw, had already been granted at a previous planning committee meeting, but the decision had to be reaffirmed, due to councillors voting against Conwy Council officers’ advice.

Officers had maintained that the change of use went against the current Local Development Plan policy, which might only allow affordable housing in the area, but councillors backed the application, arguing it would help conserve the Welsh language.

The meeting heard how the applicants, Ffion and William Owen, worked for the Welsh Government in Cardiff, but wanted to return home to their community in Llangernyw where they planned to work from home and at offices in Llandudno Junction. The application stated the family had strong links to the rural area with family and friends living close by.

Cllr Ifor Lloyd proposed councillors backed the application saying: “Some applications go against the LDP but are naturally correct to allow, and this is one of those.”

He added “As we’ve seen in the past, some people belong to an area as animals do to their habitat on the mountain, and this is one of those, so I would support allowing this proposal.” Cllr Nigel Smith seconded Cllr Lloyd.

But Old Colwyn councillor David Carr did not agree, insisting the council had to abide by its own policies or be accused of being unfair. He said: “I think it was a very controversial decision last time to go against the policies the council had actually set themselves.

“There have been a lot of emotive statements made. We set rules for our residents here, and people who live in Cardiff want to come here – they still work in Cardiff – and move up here and live here, and whatever, and work from home and are allowed to trample over the regulations and the policies that we’ve set, so I think it is wrong.

“It is not about an underprivileged group. It is about power and privilege that people, that wealthy people who live in Cardiff, can come here and do this, and our residents can’t.” He added: “We should be supporting our residents here, not people who live hundreds of miles away in Cardiff, and I think it is wrong.”

The council’s solicitor Alex Strickland reminded councillors they needed to judge the application on its merits and not decide the outcome based on the identities of the applicants, who are understood to be Welsh speakers.

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But Cllr Lloyd said the current LDP needed updating adding that the “policy has always been a contentious one that wasn’t quite correct.” He said: “I’m not being emotive – they are from that area and had to move away to work, and basically they are trying to come home and raise their family where they’ve come from, so we have looked and compared with other areas in the country, such as Cornwall and Devon and other ones, to look to try and improve the policies so we can open the door for people who want to stay, and we are not trying to be racist.

“We are just trying to offer people who want to speak their own language and be in their own culture with their own people in their own areas. Now these people are coming home, David. That’s what they are looking to do. That’s without being emotive. So we are looking at improving the policies in the next LDP.”

Chairman Cllr Alan Hunter added: “This is a family who want to come back home, not people who live in Cardiff who want to come and live out here. They went to Cardiff to work, if I read it right in the report. Maybe you might have missed that, I don’t know.”

Councillors voted in favour of the decision to approve the application being reaffirmed with only Cllr David Carr voting against.