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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 27 January, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

 

The Conservation Area Advisory Group

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         This report follows an earlier report to Cabinet on 1st September 2010 to administer changes to the working of the Conservation Area Advisory Group and to monitor the effectiveness of the proposals and recommend any further changes as required.  The report recommends the cessation of the Conservation Area Advisory Group and the establishment of an alternative mechanism for seeking input into relevant proposals.

Recommendations

1.         That subject to recommendation (2) below the Conservation Advisory Group in its current form ceases and the Director of Development Services, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation provides an alternative consultation mechanism for those interested parties in the form of a ‘weekly list’ specific to conservation areas.

2.         That the report be referred to Planning Committee for consultation prior to consideration by Full Council.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         Following the monitoring of the effectiveness of the Conservation Group and the production of the report 'Conservation Area Advisory Group – Review of Effectiveness’ it has become clear that the members of the group itself are not regularly attending the meetings and the resources required to be supplied by the Council are not justified with regard to the value that the process adds to the planning process.

2.         To consult Planning Committee on the content of this report.

Background

2.         Conservation Area Advisory Groups have been meeting in the Vale of Glamorgan for a period in excess of 30 years.  The Welsh Office Circular 61/96 entitled Planning and the Historic Environment: Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas, recommends the establishment of such Groups or Committees to assist both in the development of policies and to advise on applications received within Conservation Areas.

3.         Historically, Groups were based on each Conservation Area but a series of reviews led to the current arrangement of a single Conservation Area Advisory Group.

4.         The last comprehensive considerations of arrangements were agreed in September 2010 and it was decided to seek a "core membership" by inviting representatives for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Royal Society of Architects in Wales.  It was also agreed that invites be sent to the "six groups" namely, Ancient Monuments Society, the Georgian Group, the Victorian Society, the Council for British Archaeology the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical an Monuments of Wales.

5.         Other members from Local Interest Groups, Local Historical Societies and Town and Community Councils would be invited to meetings in the event of applications or policy matters being reported that relate to their specific areas. The purpose of this arrangement was so that local representatives could be in a position to attend and participate in the discussions and vote on items that were relevant to their areas of interest.

6.         The Chairmanship and Vice Chairmanship of the Group remained unaltered and the Group continued to be administered by the Council's Democratic Services Group.  Meetings continued to be held monthly.

7.         The approved Terms of Reference were as follows:

(a) To consider applications for planning permission and related applications which in the opinion of the Local Planning Authority would affect the character and appearance of any Conservation Area in the Vale of Glamorgan.

(b) To make recommendations to Planning Committee following the consideration of applications under (a).

(c) At the request of Cabinet, to act as a consultee and consider any policy document and initiative relevant to the preservation and enhancement of the Council’s Conservation Areas 5.

 

8.         Recently the effectiveness of the Conservation Group arrangements has been considered and an evaluation entitled 'onservation Area Advisory Group - Review of Effectiveness - January 2014' is attached for information at Appendix A. The review concluded that the Group was only performing with limited success and was adding limited value to the Planning System.

Relevant Issues and Options

9.         From the report it is clear that the last of the 'Core’ members of the group have resigned and there are now no representatives from the Core membership attending and any limited value that was being added to the process has now been lost.

 

10.      Accordingly, at a time of budget constraints and conflicting priorities in the delivery of a statutory service within set time-scales, the very limited benefits that can be added to the planning process through the continued running of the Conservation Advisory Group must be recognised. 

 

11.      Moreover, it must now be appreciated that the meeting of the Group itself to view plans in a paper or even projection form is considered to be out of date with the technology and services available online through the Council's web site.

 

12.      Nevertheless, the desire to continue the involvement of the "wider community" in land use planning matters, and especially matters relating to the historic environment is clearly an important issue for the Council.

 

13.      Given the need to consider priorities in the delivery of services across the Council, it is recommended that an alternative mechanism be established whereby any interested party (not just members of the Group) can gain access to all applications, (including those currently not represented on the Group), relating to a conservation area.  This is considered a far more appropriate means of circulating and seeking feedback on proposals and the Council will potentially benefit from increased feedback to proposals.

 

14.      It is envisaged that the consultation mechanism would take the form of a 'weekly list’ specific to conservation areas.  This is a simple administrative exercise to perform and can be sent to a set mailing list and made available on the Council’s website.  Current members of the Group and the Amenity Society’s who form the Core Group would be asked if they would like to be included in the mailing list and this would also be open to any other interested party.  Comments would be made directly to the relevant case officer and could be made available to Planning Committee in respect of relevant applications.

 

15.      The 'Terms of Reference’ would no longer be needed as all applications with conservation areas would be included on the list and the Conservation Area Advisory Group would cease to operate.

 

16.      In addition it should be noted that in tandem with the above changes, Public speaking is also being sought with regard to the Planning Committee process and this will also allow greater involvement of the public and Community Councils in the planning process.

 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

17.      The production of a weekly list can be met from within existing budgets.  The cessation of the current Conservation Area Advisory Group would represent a more efficient means of working and would allow a refocusing of priorities.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18.      The consideration of applications for development has clear links with sustainability in terms of efficient use of land and the preservation and enhancement of the historic environment.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.      The legislative provision relating to Conservation Areas are contained within the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.  Comments from the Group are material in the consideration of applications for planning permission and in the consideration of Planning Appeals by the Planning Inspectorate.

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.      None applicable to this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.      None applicable to this report although the provision of details in the form of a weekly list, available to all parties, is potentially a more equitable way of seeking input into the process.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.      The report is presented in the context of the key objective of conserving and enhancing the built environment.

Policy Framework and Budget

23.      The appointment/terms of reference and membership (and, consequently, any cessation) of the Conservation Area Advisory Group is a matter for Full Council

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.      No individual Ward Member consultation has been undertaken.  The report will be referred to Planning Committee for consultation prior to consideration by Full Council.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.      Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

Appendix A 'Conservation Area Advisory Group – Review of Effectiveness’

 

Contact Officer

Marcus Goldsworthy, Operational Manager Development and Building Control - Tel. 01446 704661

 

Officers Consulted

Legal Services - Committee Reports

Financial Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services