A Plaid Cymru Senedd Member has questioned why a local authority allowed controversial planning applications to be determined behind closed doors.
South Wales East MS Peredur Owen Griffiths wrote to the Labour Leader at Caerffili County Borough Council about the expansion of facilities at the Valley Greyhound Racing Stadium in Ystrad Mynach.
Recently, the stadium applied for permission for three separate matters: the change of use from an athletic football club to greyhound boarding kennels, the retention and completion of a two storey and single storey extension and the retention and completion of single storey racing kennels.
Rather than bring the matters to a public meeting, council officials approved the applications in private using delegated powers.
In a letter addressed to Council Leader Sean Morgan, Peredur wrote: ‘Many people are concerned about the implications for holding more races at this track will have for animal welfare.
‘I – and many of my Plaid Cymru colleagues – are deeply opposed to the expansion of this facility as we would much prefer it to be shut down and the ‘sport’ banned in Wales.
‘This view is also shared by a number of my Senedd colleagues across the political divide.’
He added: ‘Can you explain why a matter pertaining to a development as contentious as this was approved behind closed doors?
‘Issues that attract huge public interest should be given scrutiny in an open arena. There are many members of the public who would like to have opted to witness the granting or refusal of planning permission for something of such magnitude.
‘On behalf of the local authority, can you explain why that opportunity was not given? Can you also outline the local authority’s policy for giving planning permission under delegated powers as opposed to bringing them to committee and a public forum?’
Councillor Phillipa Leonard, the Labour Cabinet Member for Planning, responded to the letter and wrote: ‘Please be advised that the application in question was determined by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) on the 31 July 2023, in accordance with local plan policies and national planning guidance.
‘I note that there has been public interest in this development, and a considerable number of objections have been received. However, the vast majority of the objections received by the LPA related to the welfare of the greyhound's that race and the general moral and ethical debates of the sport.
‘Whilst I am sympathetic to these concerns, they were not material planning considerations in the determination of the application and therefore could not be taken into account by the LPA when assessing the merits or otherwise of the application.’
In response, Peredur said: “The council have not explained why they decided to determine these controversial planning applications behind closed doors. There was much public interest around this matter and it should have been discussed in public, in the council chamber in a meeting of the planning committee.
“The council have side stepped the question and I will be following this matter up to try and get a proper explanation on behalf of everyone with an interest in this matter.”
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