15 Months in Court!

Rossett Bellis Fields – Castle Green Development Update

After 15 months in court and with the failure of RFG Members to convince the Court of Appeal we wish to bring all of our supporters up to date on how and why we lost the application for an approval to bring a Judicial Review into the actions of WCBC on the Reserved Matters Planning Application dated 7th February 2022. 


Before getting into detail the members of RFG that attempted the legal challenge would like to thank everyone who supported the funding appeal. Although the sums of money raised did not achieve the original goal but it has gone some way to helping to reimburse them funding the legal challenge and to cover the costs awarded against them in favour of the Local Authority. Everyone will recall that the Reserved Matters on Castle Green Homes P/2021/0110 was decided by members on the basis that they were not allowed to vote against the application and it was perversely approved 7 votes for with 8 abstentions. 

The Challenge For A Judicial Review

The Local Planning Authority was subsequently challenged with a request for a Judicial Review on two principle grounds namely:-

Ground 1: The Chairman’s advice to the eight Members who opposed the approval of Application P/2021/0110 at the 7th February 2022 WCBC Planning Committee was unlawful because it persuaded those eight Members to abstain rather than vote against the officer recommendation. As a direct result, the application which would not have been approved by the majority of eight Members was approved by seven votes to nil. The Claimants aver that such a significant misleading of members renders the Planning Committee’s decision unlawful, and that both the Committee Decision and the Decision Notice should be quashed.

Ground 2: The Planning Officer and the Chairman materially misled or were negligent in failing to inform the Planning Committee such that members were debarred from properly considering matters such as flooding, drainage and safe pedestrian linkages to the village. Such matters, although the subject of another application for discharge of conditions, were also of key importance to the proper consideration of the Reserved Matters of Appearance, Landscaping, Layout and Scale. Given that the Planning Committee provided the first and only opportunity for elected Members to consider such key material considerations on a major scheme, the Chairman and Planning Officer’s actions and negligence were of such gravity that the Planning Committee’s Decision is averred to be unlawful and should be quashed along with the Decision Notice

The High Court Judges and the Appeal Judge

Unfortunately the first 2 High Court Judges preferred the WCBC and CGH argument to that submitted by the RFG Members and decided that there were no grounds for allowing a Judicial Review application to proceed. These 2 Judges decided that full approval to the flooding issues were all resolved at the Planning Appeal Stage in 2020 despite evidence coming into our possession in July 2022 that the site would be flooded. This new evidence was on the basis of NRW advice on TAN15(2023) guidance being introduced with effect from the 1st June 2023 after the TAN suspension by Welsh Government.

The Court of Appeal Judge however decided that these flooding issues had been decided in the Officer Report on the 7th February 2022.  Regrettably we were not allowed to argue this important and key evidence and the dangers to the Holt Road and its footway. These new evidence issues have been firmly established since the Planning Committee on the 7th February 2022 but the High Court Procedures preclude any new evidence being considered after an action has commenced.

As it turned out we had a considerable volume of evidence and arguments  to place before the Courts but we have been denied the opportunity by archaic procedures and rules being changed mid-course.

Where This Leaves Us

You ask where this leaves us, well we are not defeated as the developers still have to satisfy drainage and flooding issues which we have challenged with WCBC and the WCBC Local Flood Authority on sustainable drainage matters. In addition the WCBC Highways and Planning Officers are under challenge to the legality of the sub-standard footway they are currently endorsing and whether a safe access as required by Planning Condition can ever be achieved. It may well be that we will need to issue other challenges in the High Court. It is apparent to us that there are still several key matters that require challenge at the highest level as the case put forward by the Planning Officers have major obstacles in their path.

The Wrexham Local Development

Turning now  to what else is happening that might affect matters is the recent publication of the Welsh Government Inspector Report on WCBC LDP 2013 to 2028. We have noticed a particular groundswell against the report content and consider that the WCBC have the following options: a) either to adopt the report without question, or b) refuse to adopt with the option of inviting the Welsh Assembly to intervene to present a more acceptable proposal.

The major drawback of the Inspector Report endorses the building of 8083 houses based on 2014 Welsh Government Population predictions whereas the 2021 census reveals that there has only been 270 person increase in Wrexham Population in the last 10 years. The whole report has been complicated by the recent refusal by WG Highways to improve the A483 Junction 3 to Junction 6 which has a profound effect on the number of sites that can be linked to Junctions 4 & 5. 


In addition to the highways complication changes in Environmental Regulations to limit the amount of Phosphates remaining in Waste Water to avoid damage to the Bala Lake and River Dee Conservation Areas (SACs) have been introduced. Some of the existing Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water treatment works have no licence to treat waste water for Phosphates (Holt, Overton & Penley) and others have little or no capacity or available capital improvement programmes for improvement  thus the number of new properties that can be added to the waste water sewage network is somewhat limited. Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water have estimated that they only have capacity for 5322 houses at their waste water treatment works (WwTW) which apparently leaves little or no headroom for further developments such as commerce or industry. The net effect of this failure to connect developments to WwTW is that WCBC advise that they have a backlog of 3500 outstanding planning applications waiting for consideration. 


In the last few days we have received a response to questions to the Welsh Minister as to why NRW have been ignoring the evidence on flooding to the Rossett Development; we have been positively advised to challenge NRW Chief Executive with our agreed flooding evidence as to why NRW are ignoring our representations and disregarding the flooding to the Bellis Site bearing in mind that we have shown that NRW have no flood evidence of their own and have consistently ignored the former Environmental Agency (the forerunner to NRW) Photographs on the extent of flooding in Rossett. We will be making yet another challenge to NRW on this flooding topic in addition to the agreed challenge in Nov 2018 which NRW still fail to include properly on their flood mapping.

Population Growth

RFG have contested many aspects of the LDP over the last 5 years and are concerned that their objections on the improper taking of Best and Most Versatile High Quality Agricultural Land without the required tests has not been heeded and also the number of Houses that should be provided to meet WG Policy. RFG representations show that to accord with Welsh Government policy over the next 20 years there should be only 4000 houses whereas the LDP is recommending 8083 Houses over the next 5 years which we consider is a totally unjustified over provision based on nil population growth. The population projections actually suggest that over the next 5 years a surplus of nearly 500 properties will be generated without any more homes being built.

Affordable Homes, Flood Risks and Health

What we are being faced with are inadequate numbers of affordable houses and massive over provision of large 3 and 4 bedroom detached properties rather than 1 and 2 bedroom accommodation. We are most concerned that what the Planning Inspectors are putting forward contravenes the Well-being of Future Generations Act as it disregards ongoing flood risks, it fails to improve infrastructure and glosses over the lack of Health provision apparent throughout the borough. 

Councillors to Vote on LDP

It is unclear at the moment how WCBC Elected Members will respond to the LDP Inspector Report (follow the link) but we will try to keep everyone informed as matters proceed. Should anyone wish to view the recent High Court Papers or the LDP submissions made to the LDP in July 2022 please let us know and we will provide the necessary contacts and guidance. For information the following link provides access to our MAC 12 submission on the LDP Matter Arising Changes (MACs) which sets out amongst other things the case for a reduced housing allocation in the LDP.