Garage conversion returned to planners

An approved application to convert a disused garage into a restaurant and holiday lets will return to planners after it transpired local people were not fully informed of the scheme.

A new restaurant on the site of a disused former garage site in Fishguard’s Lower Town was granted planning permission last month, and will avoid paying a £15,000 affordable housing contribution if its three associated apartments stay as holiday lets.

As previously reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, county planners thought all the neighbouring homes were holiday lets, a local resident has said.

The application in the town’s conservation area, submitted by Orwell Pine Co Ltd, for the restaurant/café and three apartments was recommended for – and given – conditional approval, subject to the completion of a Section 106 legal agreement, and conditions including the implementation of flood mitigation measures.

Since then, some Lower Town residents have expressed their “utter frustration and anger” at what they see as “a recent act of incompetence” by Pembrokeshire County Council in not alerting neighbours of the application.

Claire Evans says she and her fellow residents were denied a chance to comment on the plans, as no planning notifications were available on-site, meaning they knew nothing of the plans until it was too late to comment.

“Very telling is the fact that as soon as I discovered that approval had been given, I telephoned the case officer to investigate how this could have happened without our knowledge.

“I was astonished to be told that: ‘The planning office did not send out letters advising of the application to the neighbouring houses because they thought the neighbouring houses were all holiday lets’.”

They asked for the approved development to be overturned, or at least revisited with due consideration to the views and reservations of local residents.

After the issue was raised, a Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson said: “We are looking into the matter and have made contact with Claire Evans as part of this process.”

At the April 25 meeting of the council’s planning committee, Chairman Cllr Jacob Williams informed members the application would be revisited at a future meeting.

He expressed his concern at residents not being part of the consultation process, members hearing details of the application had been placed on an area not immediately visible to all.

Planning committee members were told the application details would be publicised, by post, to all local residents.

Holiday lets

A report for members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s March 14 planning committee said: “The application submission proposes residential apartments for the open market.

“The applicant has advised that this is in order to obtain development funding on the wider lending market. However, the intention is for the three apartments to be used as holiday let accommodation.

“Accordingly, the applicant is of the view that a financial contribution towards affordable housing should not be required of the development and requests that it be recognised that the proposal, inclusive of the [business] use, represents a large investment to support local employment, bringing a continued inward investment to the visitor economy, whilst enhancing the conservation area.”

In the absence of an assessment providing evidence that it would be unviable for the development to proceed, policy normally requires a 10 per cent contribution to affordable housing.

This would amount to £15,262.50 for the three properties.

The report for planners at the March meeting stated: “Given the intention is for the units to be occupied as holiday lets it is considered reasonable that a recommendation of approval be subject to a Section 106 agreement, only triggering the required affordable housing contribution should the units be occupied as residential (Use Class C3), there being a permitted development right for properties to move between the C3, C5 and C6 use classes.”

Council response

Speaking after the March meeting, a spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “A contribution towards local needs affordable housing will only be required of the development if it is occupied as a sole or main residence.

“If once constructed the apartments are occupied as holiday lets then a contribution is not required.”

“It is permitted to change the use of a residential unit between a sole or main residence (Use Class C3) and a holiday let (Use Class C6) without the need to submit a planning application.

“Following construction of the development, should the apartments first be occupied as holiday lets and then later be used as a sole or main residence this change in use would trigger the requirement to contribute towards affordable housing.”

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