Catherine Milner/National Park transcript

diggers350 tony at
Mon Apr 19 14:12:11 BST 2004

Here's the transcript of the meeting with Catherine Milner.  One of the mai=
n 'officers' behind the attempted demolition of Tony Wrench's roundhouse.
Tony Gosling -

Meeting between The Land is Ours / Chapter 7, locals and Pembrokeshire Nati=
onal Park Authority development control April 13th O4

Present: TLIO/ Ch. 7, locals: Simon Fairlie, Magda Piessons, Brendon Boal
	    NCPNPA: Catherine Milner, Alan Hare
	    Police officers: Roger Hughes (superintendent and ?)
	    Note taker: Vicky Moller

SF: I would like clarification: My understanding from PPG 18 etc and Good P=
ractice Advice is that you are under no obligation to enforce, enforcement i=
s discretionary?

CM: My understanding is the same, it is discretionary

SF: And the Authority prioritises which cases to enforce by assessing how h=
armful they are. My experience is that nearly all local authorities choose n=
ot to enforce when it would mean evicting people from their home because enf=
orcement is discretionary.

CM: I'm sure it is.

SF: From my observation there is a war of attrition, otherwise I am curious=
 why you are so persistent in this particular case  - for several reasons:
1. because there is an enormous movement of support, we have observed it fr=
om being here all through the week.
2. What harm is being done by this development, especially compared to the =
high impact tourism projects that have recently been allowed
3. Because there is a low impact policy in the pipeline

Why is enforcement being so rigidly adhered to when in a year or two the ho=
use could conform to policy.
You can leave the enforcement notice in place until this policy comes throu=
gh and then assess it against the policy. You are making people angry.

CM: Not all people angry.
There is no certainty that there will be a low impact policy. 

You don't hold things just in case a policy comes along, everyone could hav=
e a swimming pool in their back garden, in the hopes that one day there woul=
d be a policy to allow this.

SF: There is a real likelihood of a low impact policy, there were 20 repres=
entations in the JUDP in favour, none against and the Welsh Assembly governm=
ent is in favour, this is the direction things are going in, it doesn't work=
 to compare this to a policy for swimming pools in every garden for which th=
ere is no likelihood.

CM: This has been appealed twice and independent inspectors found no justif=
ication for this development twice. The authority is letting due process car=
ry on.

SF: Not due, permissible.

CM The Authority committee has taken its decision, and Tony Wrench didn't a=
ppeal against the enforcement. The appeal inspector allowed them 18 months t=
o find other accommodation. In my view he balanced the human rights issues a=
gainst the enforcement, in giving 18 months.

SF: They didn't appeal, and that was a mistake I think, but no-one explains=
 to people that there is a specialist group of enforcement officers, and an =
opportunity to appeal against enforcement. It took me 3 years to find out th=
ese things. You shouldn't use this against them to justify taking it to cour=
t. On the basis of what is customary what would be the problem with leaving =

CM: No, on the basis of planning policy and the decision of the members. Th=
ey make the decisions, not me.

SF: You cant blame this on the members. Did you recommend enforcement?

CM: Yes I did. Two inspectors decided this is non-authorised development. T=
his has nothing to do with it being a sustainable development. It is a new d=
evelopment in the countryside whatever it is made of, whatever it looks like=
. If the inspectors give no consent what are we supposed to do? If we ignore=
 this then anyone can build anything! Now Emma has built four more and is li=
ving in three of them!

SF: Why are you advising the committee totally against this development, wh=
en there is an emerging policy that has come some way through which could al=
low it? It smacks of vindictiveness. Especially when this is a really popula=
r house.

CM: It is not our job to be popular, it is our job to implement policy whet=
her people like it or not. 

SF: There is a little used rule that local authorities can do whatever they=
 deem to be in the public interest. This development is in the public intere=
st so there is less need to enforce against it.

CM: That doesn't follow, how do you make that out?
§ It doesn't cause harm 
§ It meets the over-riding obligation to develop ways to live sustainably a=
nd to stop harming the planet.
§ It meets the economic and social purposes of the Park 
§ It meets the drastic need for affordable local homes
§ It supports the economic need for small-scale farming and forestry activi=

 People from all walks of life have lost confidence in the Authority. They =
feel that local people are being pushed out of homes and jobs in favour of t=
ourists' needs. I can give examples from my own experience as well as the we=
ll-known one in the county.
(e.g. of farmer wanting to convert barn for his son to help his aging paren=
ts on the farm, tried twice and refused, but same barn got permission to be =
tourist accommodation.)

CM: To change this you need to change the policy documents we work to. Ther=
e is opportunity to do this but people don't think about the policy until th=
ey are affected. Then they expect us to change the policy to suit their situ=
ation. It's too late, the time to do this is when policy is out to consultat=
ion as it is now, but already at public inquiry stage.
We do a huge amount of work to involve people in the consultation, we bend =
over backwards to involve them, put on road-shows all over the county, but h=
ardly any-one comes to them. 
You have to get involved in the process of policy forming far before gettin=
g to this stage. At this stage we have a policy which says Thou Shalt Not Bu=
ild in the Open Countryside. And that is WAG and UK policy, not just ours.

MH describes her own attempts to pursue her small-scale agriculture. How th=
is is acceptable and normal in Holland, but here it seems committee members =
do not understand this kind of agriculture and horticulture. She was living =
on her land in a tiny towing caravan which was enough for her and her husban=
d, but was enforced out of it. She tried to build a turf roof storage shed o=
n her land for her business but this was also refused. At the same time a tu=
rf roof holiday cottage on White Sands Bay was allowed. Her beautifully desi=
gned shed was allowed on appeal. She asked: Why do you take the most repress=
ive options in each case against these small-scale operations?

CM: At Whitesands they got permission because there was something there bef=
ore, there were existing use rights.

MP: But local people are getting the impression that there is no provision =
for them and they cannot afford anywhere to live. We have low incomes here, =
we cannot take on mortgages of £200,000. We need housing which we can afford=
.  Tony's roundhouse is one example of something you can do for yourself in =
the countryside. 
You could give it personal planning permission which only attaches to one p=
erson. You need to be creative to deal with this housing crisis for local pe=
ople. I know several people who are homeless now because the tourist season =
has started and they have to move out of rented accommodation for tourists.

CM: The Park cannot solve the housing crisis. You have to change the policy=
 but we are 4 years into the process, you have to start before this stage. T=
hat's how I have to work, we do our best to involve people.
SF: To deal with the planning process you have to be a professional. It is =
mostly a dialogue between developers and planners and conservation bodies. T=
he developers hire consultants with the appropriate expertise to represent t=
hem. Ordinary people cannot afford consultants. Chapter 7 cant even afford t=

CM: You don't need to use consultants. If you do you can get planning aid t=
o pay them. There are consultants doing planning aid in Pembs.

SF: How do people get to hear about planning aid, are you informing them? (=
Neither Magda or Tony Wrench knew about this)

CM: It's not my role to inform them, I am not involved in policy developmen=
t, that is Martina Dunne's department.
SF: Are you bound to make recommendations which conform with policy with no=

CM: It depends on the degree of deviation. We need permission from WAG to d=
eviate. I cant recommend to members to deviate.

SF: It is not black and white. In 64A planning officers guidance it states =
that you must work with development planning policy unless there are materia=
l considerations that indicate otherwise.
CM: What material considerations?

SF: Sustainability, affordable housing..

CM: This might be relevant but not in a protected area like the Park. No ot=
her Park has approved an eco-housing development. And we don't want to go do=
wn the route of approving  retrospectively.

SF: Our planning officer rather likes retrospective, he says you know what =
you've got, you get less bogus applications, eg for a home to farm from, the=
n selling off the land once you've built it.

CM: We tried to tie land to buildings but central govt. said we cant do tha=
t. We can only work with the framework we are given by central government. W=
e tried to get a locals only housing policy for new build in the park but we=
 were challenged by WAG and lost in the high court.

SF: According to PPG 7 you can tie buildings to land so long as you use the=
 policy with restraint. You cant restore land to buildings once lost.
What I cant understand is why you are so rigid when 64A allows you to devia=
te. I have a huge admiration of the English planning system because it has t=
his flexibility, in fact it is universally admired for this. You are pretend=
ing that you don't have any choice when you do, and other authorities allow =

CM: No other National Park Authority has allowed eco-housing.

MP: What courses or training do NPA officers receive in order to learn abou=
t permaculture design systems, ecological and low impact development?

CM: We have to learn to be experts without training courses when a case com=
es up. For example I had to become a small expert in wind-farms and in LNG a=
s well as permaculture recently. We don't have formal training but I have to=
 learn fast to report to the committee. We also choose the appointees on the=
 committee for their varied expertises.
I have a question for Magda; No-one has ever used the exceptions policy in =
Pembrokeshire, but it is provided to enable people to apply a home outside d=
evelopment limits. What more do you want this authority to do?

SF: It is sad that it has not been used but you should be asking yourself w=
Also I understood from PPG 6 that the exceptions policy only allows develop=
ment on the outskirts of a settlement, is only for local people and one-off =
buildings have never been acceptable under it. It depends on a housing need =

CM: Yes, you have to prove the need.

BB: I think from listening to what has been said that you would probably tu=
rn an application for the developments cited today down if they came in unde=
r exceptions policy.

CM: We are working with people in the Newport area to get an exceptions lan=
d release for housing. Do you know Cara Wilson and To Gwyrdd? The Authority =
and this group are working together to achieve this.

SF: I tried to get housing under this policy but was shot down essentially =
because I was not a housing association.

BB:The process for changing policy is quite obscure. Otherwise why is it th=
at we got 150 people trying to change things to join us, but you don't get p=
eople to come to the consultations when they should be able to change things=

AH: There may be other tricks we have to learn.
MP: There is a growing gap between the Authority and local people, a lack o=
f trust, don't you find this?

CM: No, I don't agree. We go out to talk to people whenever they invite us.=
 We have an annual gathering of town and community councillors where we talk=
 to them.

SF: You say you have a problem getting people to road shows. Might this be =
because of this lack of trust? We had 80 people out there, half of them loca=
l and you wouldn't come and talk to us.

AH: I went out and I was bawled at. If we are asked to come to a meeting we=
 go, we cant be haphazard about it, we have an organisation and planning cyc=
le to run.

SF: Can we agree on a public meeting to discuss these queries and concerns?=
 There is a difference between a `home' and `away' situation, in terms of wh=
o will come.

Police: I suggest that you send a letter to these officers with an agenda. =
I think that people should talk to each other, I say that from the heart.

MP: I agree so much with this, a public meeting would be extremely helpful.=

AH: I will request it of the committee. 

Police Chief superintendent: There is a need to get round the table again. =
There should be no need to go through this sort of action ever again. Could =
we agree here on the issues for the future and allow people to get around th=
e table again?

SF: Is part of the mistrust because of the perception that there are back-h=
anders which is why some people get permission and others do not, there seem=
 to be some bloody strange exceptions to policy. This at least is what we he=
ar from everyone round here. Do you know not one person objected to what we =
were doing, we didn't get any `Go home hippies' response.

RH Police officer: `I told you we're nice people round here'

CM: Thirty years ago there used to be back-handers, but not any more.

BB: Why is it that the Park Authority is so unpopular?

MP: I used to be very positive about Park, It is extremely beautiful and I =
really want to keep it that way. I want to work with you, but I didn't get t=
he feeling that you want to work with me. Maybe we should talk about that. I=
 still believe that together we can put a positive message out to people abo=
ut what the Park is and can be. 

CM: Yes but the roundhouse has gone through so many stages that the Authori=
ty cant change its view now.

SF: But most authorities wouldn't do anything. Why don't you choose this op=

CM: What message does that send about the Authority?

AH: Well this has been a very useful meeting and you have made some useful =
points which we can take back with us. We will take your message about a pub=
lic meeting to the committee next week.  Can you put in writing what you wou=
ld like to discuss, we need an agenda, then we can ask the committee
vickymoller at 0845 458 4074.



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