THE LONG-RUNNING saga of plans to site a takeaway ice cream parlour at surplus beachside public toilets, which even saw a call for it to be decided by Welsh Government, has been refused by just one vote.
At the June meeting of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s planning committee, members went against officer recommendations by narrowly backing the Newgale scheme.
The application, by Mike Harris, included a beach-themed small retail unit and a small rear extension for a kitchen at closed public toilets next to Newgale Campsite.
It also offered a new seasonal public disabled toilet to be provided by the applicant.
As the plan was a departure from officer recommendations, planners could only be ‘minded to’ approve, needing a future meeting for final ratification, initially expected to be the July meeting.
However, national park planners at that meeting heard the scheme had been subject to a potential ‘call-in’ for the Welsh Government to decide its fate, after a request from the National Trust.
That was turned down, the application returning to the September 6 meeting of the national park’s planning committee, again recommended for refusal.
A report for committee members suggested a list of tough new conditions, if they approved against officer recommendations, including a legal agreement to provide disabled toilet facilities and the site only being occupied for seven years, relating to potential flooding.
The last point was considered “an unrealistic demand” by Mr Harris, who said he had budgeted up to £300,000 for the business venture.
The site is within a designated flood risk zone, part of a wider area that is currently subject to a coastal adaptation scheme being led by Pembrokeshire County Council, which will eventually involve the relocation of the road adjacent to the site.
At the September meeting, Councillor Reg Owens, a champion of the scheme from the beginning, said he saw “no reason” to change his mind from his initial support, adding that members had previously voted against recommendations where a flooding issue had been raised.
Cllr Owens, a wheelchair user himself, said: “This application – I would say – is much-needed in Newgale,” adding: “To have fully accessible disabled toilets in the middle of Newgale is going to be a great benefit to the disabled community.”
He said the Welsh Government decision not to accept a ‘call-in’ was “a reassurance to me that we made the right decision last time.”
Moving the application be approved with a far less onerous list of conditions, he stressed he would never criticise the officers in their recommendation for refusal, but stressed: “We, as members, we look at the merit; this very much merits approval.”
Councillor Di Clements told fellow members she was “struggling” to support the application, citing “the substantial policy reasons for this not to go ahead,” along with the issue of flooding.
Following a lengthy debate on the potential removal of some of the planning conditions, Cllr Owens’ move to approve the scheme was defeated by nine votes to eight, the default position of refusal then narrowly passing.