Waste Carriers License or Permit: none
CL:AiRE DoW:CoP: declared for the infilling of the pit, but not for the tip removal
TALDRWST/TYFFYN AGNES QUARRY AND SLATE TIPS, LLANLLYFNI, GWYNEDD LL54 6RR
I refer to your recent complaint to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales regarding the above site. I understand you have been advised to refer your complaint to the Council’s Service Improvement Officer, and that this complaint was submitted on the 20th December 2019.
In providing this response, the Council has taken into account the content of your letters of the 16th September 2019 and 20th September 2019, and to your complaint to the Council’s Planning Service against an alleged breach of planning control on the 25th November 2019.
I am aware the Council has previously responded on the 15th October 2019 to concerns raised through your MP, Hywel Williams. . Further to that response, I provide a comprehensive reply to the matters you have raised in your letters and complaint. Due to the complexity and length of your correspondences to us, it has taken longer than normal to formulate a full response, and I apologise for this. The response is set out in broad headings in relation to the content of your two letters up to your signature. Both letters are accompanied by up to 19 pages of references, quotes, questions and commentary, which seems to be a mix of recent and historic material. My response focuses on the questions in your letters unless the issue in your attachments has not otherwise been addressed.
Permitted Development General Context
The General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) provides automatic planning permission for a wide range of small scale development. In the case of Pt 23B for the removal of material from mineral working deposits, the limiting factor is up to 2 hectares area, which is small in terms of scale and likely impacts compared with the majority of quarry and mine workings. Permitted development rights are designed to remove an unnecessary burden of bureaucracy for the prescribed development to take place and the consideration of notifications made under the GDPO should be proportionate with this. The level of scrutiny and monitoring of the notification process and monitoring compliance by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) authority for permitted development will consequently be less rigorous than is the case for the consideration of full planning applications.
Agreed, and, ordinarily, there is little wrong with this; only the council omits to mention that in this case the site is an acknowledged bio-diversity site, also that strong concerns were raised against it by their Biodiversity Department and that planning declined to enforce a requirement for an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) despite knowing this, whilst also ignoring the council's obligations under the Environmental Act 2016 to safeguard such locations, and that the site has a right-of-way across it thereby additionally making it a public amenity site which, in turn, have additional protections through the Wellbeing of Wales Act 2015 (although that did not prevent the planning department from mis-using several aspects of the Act to justify their decision).
The GDPO aspect of the application conveniently also precluded public consultation and whilst the council allowed a brief consultation period, this was too brief to allow anything even close to the scrutiny that this should have received in view of the fast-track 21-day nature of GDPO applications.
Mineral Planning Authority
In Wales, the term Mineral Planning Authority originates from the time when there were separate County Councils, who carried out that function, and District Councils. In 1996, all Councils in Wales were reorganized and became Unitary Councils, and the mineral planning authority functions have become an integral part of the Local Planning Authority functions of the new Gwynedd Council. For the avoidance of doubt, the planning function is referred to in this letter as the Local Planning Authority (LPA).
Further to the above, Mineral Planning is co-ordinated from a main unit based in Flintshire, and part of Flintshire County Council. Representatives from this unit are, additionally, located within the various unity authority councils to assist the LPA with planning decisions involving MPA (Mineral Planning Authority) functions.
The Permitted Development
The development at Taldrwst has been permitted under the Town and Country Planning Permitted Development Order for the working of slate tips under Schedule 2, Part 23, and the infill of a small quarry hole under Schedule 2, Part 19. Permitted development confers automatic planning permission to a wide range of small-scale development set out by government within the Schedules to the Order.
Once confirmed, there is no commencement restriction or any requirement to work, or not work, the development in question. Over the past 18 months or so works have been carried out to create the site access and vehicle turning area in preparation for the slate tip working and the infill of the quarry hole. The majority of activity, which has occurred over the past six months, has been for the infill of the quarry hole. Due to the very wet weather conditions, material has been stockpiled on surface awaiting better weather conditions before being pushed into the hole. The level of infill activity is dependent upon the availability of suitable fill material, which is sporadic and often the activity will be of a campaign nature.
With respect to the processing of the slate waste, this has not yet begun in any significant scale. We understand that some material has been removed for product trials at a nearby quarry and some material is being placed on pallets in wire cages for sale for walling use and is part of the type of activity, which the permitted development allows.
To be charitable, there are a number of issues in this that the council is clearly either unaware of or is choosing to ignore. I, myself, am currently limited in what I can comment on in regard to this at the present time.
HSE and Construction Environment Management Plan
We are aware that the site was inspected by the HSE and that some general recommendations were made to the operator who is working the site, which will improve on-site safety. The site has also been inspected by officers of the Council and in 2018 and subsequent site visits at the crossing point of the public right of way there were clear signposts advising of heavy plant crossing in both directions, photos attached. It is understood that other measures set out in the notification documents to protect the users of the right of way will be put in place when excavation operations begin to affect the public footpath running along the watercourse and the toe of the slate tip. The access road has been constructed from suitable hard paved material, being compacted slate, with a concrete apron over the verge at the public highway. This was agreed as part of the section 184 and 59 consent process for the highway access, which continued after the confirmation notice, was issued for the Part 23 and Part 19 permitted development.
The signposts were actually installed in September 2019, and only following HSE (Health & Safety Executive) recommendations. HSE has also recommended that further signage is put in place with immediate effect (which would not be a bad idea bearing in mind that there is regular heavy machinery movement on the site, including HGVs - despite these being disallowed on the site).
It should also be noted that recent activity on the site involving the removal of slate via tractor and trailer, has already left one of the piles of slate adjacent to the footpath in a precarious state that could potentially collapse and injure someone. The access road is also in a damaged and potholed condition, frequently bleeding polluted water into the culverted watercourse, mainly as a result of regular HGV traffic onto the site.
The dog is owned by the farmer who occupies the site and is understood to be present as a security deterrent when he marshals the visiting lorries.
I did comment on the need for a dog to be present on the site, and find it amusing that the farmer (especially the farmer in question) should have such worries from those working the site... I am puzzled, too, as to how a dog chained to a heavy weight can possibly provide a "security deterrent"; also the council should take care with their wording: site CEMP (which is to be added to this article soon) expressly forbids lorries on the site ...and site CEMP was put together by the LPA as a condition of the site application being approved.
In truth the applicant (who is the farmer) is rarely present when vehicles arrive at the site, the purpose of the dog being to bark at anyone entering the site thereby warning the farmer of their presence. Incidentally, the dog is more likely to lick you to death than bite you.
The watercourse is a minor brook close to the source, and is illustrated in the photograph above. The planning authority agrees with the description provided in the notification documentation.
Interesting, in the planning documentation the applicant seems to believe it is the equivalent of a raging torrent ...and then take a look at the following two images (both taken from the letter):
The first was taken sometime after September 2019, the second probably around June / July 2019. This is how the "minor brook" looked at the beginning of November and is how it usually looks outside of dry weather:
Public Right of Way
Public access to the land is permissible only using the public rights of way, and officers of the Council have accessed the public footpath across the notification site and found no obstructions. We are unable to comment on the condition of the footpath elsewhere. Third party access onto private land is a matter for the land owner, tenant farmer and the developer and operating company. If you have concerns relating to the obstruction of a public right of way, you are advised to contact Euryn Williams, Rights of Way Officer for Arfon, Council Offices, Stryd y jêl Caernarfon, LL55 1SH 01286 679536 or contact via the Website: https://www.gwynedd.llyw.cymru/en/Residents/Parking-roads-and-travel/Public-Rights-of-Way/Public-Rights-of-Way.aspx
Not true: the site is quite clearly obstructed at the both the top of the footpath and the bottom where it is supposed to be accessible via Lôn Ddwr close to Gwynfaes Bungalow (and farm). The top access point is accessible (although not in the sense that it should be), whilst access to the bottom of the path involves climbing over a gate or entering the Tomen Lechi Taldrwst site via the gate off Lôn Tyddyn Agnes or even via the driveway to Taldrwst (either of which are perfectly permissable whilst the route access points remain obstructed).
The applicant, who is currently resident at Taldrwst Farm and who has since been reported for attempting to assault people accessing the pathway, also stated in the planning documentation that it was not possible to progress beyond the culvert and that, because of that and the waterway, walkers should turn back at that point. In truth, even with the obstructions, the path is perfectly accessible along its whole length and is an excellent link route from the B4418 via Gwynfaes Farm and on up and onto further routes across to Dorothea Quarries, Llanllyfni, or even Nebo.