Concerns over Landowner's Role in Park Planning Policy

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 12, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Concerns over Landowner's Role in Park Planning Policy

Byline: By MARTIN SHIPTON Western Mail

A prominent landowner was allowed to take a crucial role in developing planning policy for a national park, which could result in his family making millions in profit. Ross Murray, above, who was a member of Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, was made chairman of a working group charged with devising proposals for a new unitary development plan, which will establish the policies against which future planning applications will be judged.

One of the suggested proposals is a development of 222 houses on former military land at Cwrt-y-gollen, around two miles from Crickhowell.

The land is owned by Mr Murray's wife and other members of her family.

Such a project, according to a professional estimate, would be likely to have a development value of pounds 60m.

Serious questions are being asked about the Assembly Government's decision to appoint Mr Murray.

There is no suggestion he has done anything improper, as he made full declarations of interest whenever his family's land was discussed, since his appointment to the authority in November 2001.

But it has been claimed his appointment was inappropriate due to his family's large interest in the development of the former army camp.

The company, Crickhowell Estates, bought Cwrt-y-gollen for just under pounds 750,000 in December 2000.

Brecon and Radnor's Liberal Democrat MP Roger Williams said, 'I am concerned because the code of conduct for local authority members, which also covers national park authorities, says their actions should be judged by how they are perceived in the communities they serve.

'I don't think it matters so much when Ross Murray declared an interest and when he didn't. In my view, the sheer scale of his family's interest in the development of a significant site referred to in the unitary development plan made it inappropriate that he should have been a member of the park authority and chairman of the working party.'

Mr Williams added, 'I also have concerns about the proposal to build 222 new homes at Cwrt-y-gollen, which would effectively amount to the creation of a new village, without a shop, a school or a doctor's surgery.'

Formal objections to the proposed unitary development plan have been made by Talgarth Town Council, which is concerned that no new housing has been earmarked for Talgarth.

Crickhowell town councillor Geoff Powell, who runs his own architectural design practice in the town, has also objected.

He believes it would be wrong to create a new development at Cwrt-y-gollen, while claiming nearby towns like Talgarth and Crickhowell need new homes to thrive.

He said without 140 extra homes for Crickhowell alone, schools, shops and other community facilities will become less sustainable.

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