A PROPOSED £6m expansion of a south Pembrokeshire holiday park has been approved at a special meeting despite fears it would set a precedent for other such schemes.
The application for the works at Heritage Park, Pleasant Valley/Stepaside, which had attracted hundreds of objections, was previously backed by county planners twice after a ‘minded to approve’ cooling-off period was invoked as it was against officer recommendations.
The controversial scheme by Heritage Leisure Development (Wales) Ltd includes the installation of 48 bases for holiday lodges, a spa facility at a former pub, holiday apartments, a café and cycle hire, equestrian stables, a manège and associated office, and associated works.
It is said the scheme, next to the historic remains of the 19th century Stepaside ironworks and colliery, will create 44 jobs.
Officer grounds for refusal, based on the Local Development Plan, included the site being outside a settlement area.
After the two committee thumbs-ups, the scheme was sent for final consideration at a special extraordinary council meeting on November 10, again recommended for refusal.
At the November meeting, planning committee chair Councillor Jacob Williams moved conditional approval of the application, seconded by Councillor Brian Hall.
A plea to refuse the application was made by local councillor Alistair Cameron, who said the development would offer “little or no economic benefit, and certainly no justification to go against our local plan.”
Cllr Hall took a differing view: “I’m totally, totally supportive of this, I wish we had more sites like this, this is the best chalet/mobile home site I’ve been to with the facilities there,” adding: “If we could have more like this Pembrokeshire would be a better place.”
Councillor Jon Harvey said he had no doubt the site was well managed, but warned: “The point is we have an adopted Local Development Plan, this application is contrary to policy.
“This could potentially set a precedent, there is a danger if we go ahead and approve this application it sets a precedent for other sites in the county that are outside development areas.”
Councillor Reg Owens said the was a need “to take tourism seriously in Pembrokeshire,” adding: “I appreciate we have planning policies, but we shouldn’t let them strangle us, otherwise there is no need for a planning committee, you would just ‘rubber stamp’ them through.”
He finished: “This application certainly seems to have tremendous merits; I will be supporting the application.”
Councillor Aled Thomas disputed the dangers of ‘precedent,’ pointing out a recent application in north Pembrokeshire was finally passed at full council against officer recommendations.
He felt approval could actually have a knock-on effect on the housing stock, with people choosing chalets rather than buying second homes.
Councillor Jamie Adams said it “certainly will provide another option for people who may initially be considering a second home in Pembrokeshire”.
He said there was a danger of “putting a foot on the throat of tourism in this county”.
“The visitor economy, tourism in Pembrokeshire, is vitally important; if you put that with agriculture and energy, it’s the three pillars of the economy at the moment.”
Councillor Alec Cormack launched an impassioned plea: “All I’m asking members here today is search their consciences before making a decision.
“Officers tell you this development would be the creation of an unsustainable development.”
Citing the Welsh Government Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, he asked: “When you meet with you own future generations at Christmas, how proud will you be?”
The application was approved by 37 votes to 16, with two abstentions.