Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities at Bridgend County Borough Council, has issued a statement following a motion which was put to a full meeting of Council on 16 December 2020.
The motion called upon the council to sign up to the Placemaking Wales Charter, work to protect green open space and woodland within new and existing communities, and agree to hold referendums within electoral wards where a loss of green space might be the only option for development to take place.
Following a comprehensive debate, the members voted 25 – 17 against accepting the motion.
Cllr Young said: “As there has been a lot of subsequent discussion about this, I want to clarify some of the reasons why members voted overwhelmingly against accepting the motion at full Council yesterday.
“The first point I would like to make is that the motion ignored the fact that we have already incorporated the principles of the Placemaking Wales Charter into our planning work, and are actively considering further ways in which it can be embedded.
“If you take the current Local Development Plan as an example, it contains a policy on placemaking which has been in place since 2013.
“New placemaking training has also been arranged for members of the Development Control committee. This is set to take place in the New Year, and is designed to help councillors develop better understanding around the scope, aims and objectives of the placemaking initiative.
“Passing a motion on something which is already embedded within our work and which we are actively seeking to develop further would be both redundant and superfluous.
“I think the main reason why councillors voted against the motion, however, was that they recognised that the proposal to hold referendums within wards would ultimately prove to be unworkable and risk derailing the planning process.
“Strategic development extends far beyond ward boundaries, especially where larger sites are concerned, and this is often delivered in phases which affect more than one area. Agreeing the motion would have caused an inevitable knock-on effect for neighbouring wards involved in such a process, and could risk leaving the authority open to costly legal challenges.
“It also overlooks the fact that planning is already the number one area of work within local councils where consultation and engagement with local people forms a central part of any development.
“The fact of the matter is that Bridgend County Borough Council is already committed towards the principles of placemaking and maximising the potential of green and open spaces wherever possible. If you want an example of this commitment, take a look at how the newly launched Bridgend Town Centre Masterplan seeks to incorporate this.
“All council development strategies are required to take placemaking principles into account, and you will see further examples of this in forthcoming proposals around, for example, the regeneration of Porthcawl, or the ongoing progress of the next Local Development Plan for the area.
“I hope this helps to explain some of the thinking behind this move, and clarifies why the majority of members voted against the motion yesterday.”