In a previous post we set out our complaints to the relevant Welsh authorities. We had been directed towards these channels by the official complaint procedures on the Welsh Government website. It would appear from our experience that these channels are just methods for what you would call an initial “brush off” or as we see it “let’s sweep it under the carpet and they will go away”. Further details of the complaints can be read here:
We have already responded back to the complaint brush off by the planning Inspectorate (PINS) with a further detailed request to respond in earnest. We await their response.
The complaint against Julie James AM, The Minister of Housing and Local Government, according to protocol, had to be sent to the FM Mark Drakeford. Our complaint consisted of 11 pages clearly explaining the case, together with 13 pages of 3 appendices that had been referred to in the complaint. In addition we sent a further 10 appendices (250+ pages) of supporting information.
Response from First Minister
Considering the amount of evidence and information laid before the Mr Drakeford we were expecting a detailed rebuffal of our claims. What we actually received is shown below.
Apart from the fact he can’t spell received our evidence has obviously not been given any consideration, thus making the complaint procedure a farce.
RFG Response Back to Mark Drakeford FM
Today (3 June 2020) we sent our response back to Mr Drakeford…………..
Dear Mr Drakeford,
Complaint against the Minister of Housing & Local Government
Your response to our complaint against the breach by the Minister for Housing and Local Government Julie James of the Ministerial Code of Conduct is acknowledged. It does not however address the Complaints we have made. While we accept that the Ministerial Code relates to personal standards and behaviour you have taken no notice of the fact that in the Senedd on the 29th January 2020 she proclaimed her support for the Wrexham LDP and the number of houses allocated in the LDP stating were about right. She then goes on to make a decision on one of those sites on the 14th February 2020 on the spurious grounds that as the Local Authority do not have an adopted LDP they are deemed not to have a 5-year land Bank under TAN1 JHLAS. In the Welsh Minister Decision letter there are no less than 20 references to the emerging LDP so it is clear that her earlier reference to the support of the Wrexham Deposit LDP placed her in conflict with Paragraphs 3 & 4 of Propriety Issues in Relation to The Ministerial Decision Making on Planning Appeal and Called in Applications (Disclosure Document List 002). As her Officers were present at the housing numbers hearings, she knew that they had a 5-year land bank as at 3rd September 2019 long before the decision was made on the 14th February 2020. This we would aver is in breach of section 1.3 and in particular the Seven Principles of Public life notably Objectivity and Accountability of the Ministerial Code.
We are advised that the only documents she had before her when that decision was made was the Inspectors Report a couple of copies of the draft decision for her to sign and a couple of procedural documents hardly the best evidence (section 1.3 and Objectivity) and we have seen nothing to suggest her department were any better informed. If the decision is being made by the Welsh Ministers, surely, they should be aware of all the arguments not just rely upon the report of the PINs Inspector without question.
Because of the size of the site, this was an application which had to be placed before the Welsh Ministers for decision therefore Collective responsibility comes into account here including your own. (1.3 (v)).
Your comment that she had acted at all times properly on the basis of the professional advice that she had received, does not assist her. The Ministerial Code makes Ministers responsible for the policies, decisions and actions of their departments and agencies (1.3 (i)). This Ministerial responsibility for the decision is clearly set out in Paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Notes on the Processing of a Planning Appeal/Application following the submission of Inspectors Report to the Welsh Government Planning Division (Document release Item 001e). In this case she has breached Paragraphs 3.54 and 3.55, 3.69 to 3.71 and 6.3.11 of PPW10 and a host of provisions in the Wrexham UDP which remains the adopted Development Plan for Wrexham at this point in time.
The PINs recommendation was made on the 14th November 2019 and the Ministers decision on 14th February 2020 and these decisions were made nearly 7 months and 4 months ago respectively and Wrexham Council have been given until 31st August 2020 to try to make the Plan sound on Gypsy and Travellers. The EiP Inspectors have not even indicated their wishes yet on housing or housing numbers. So at the time this speculative development was approved this site was outside the settlement boundary, in a green barrier, in a Special Land Scape Area, on BMV land, (southern site 100% grade 2 and 3a Northern site grade 2 and 3b) where this whole Community says the site floods and the doctors and schools cannot cope. The Minister also approved “improvements” to the pavement of an approach road which cannot be shown to be safe or to comply with the Manual for Streets. The decision was the Minister’s decision for which she must accept full responsibility. In other words, the “buck stops with her” or with the Collective responsibility of the whole Cabinet.
Therefore, to ignore the complaint we have made and to summarily dismiss the same without due consideration makes the complaints procedure somewhat farcical. Your endorsement of the Welsh Minister’s action has created precedents that clearly place the whole of PPW10 and Tan 6 in jeopardy and the Well-being of Future Generations is meaningless.
We await your further response in due course on these key issues of protocol and procedure.
On behalf of Rossett Focus Group
We await a more appropriate response from the First Minister of Wales.