Plans for Christmas Tree Farm and Reindeer Centre Near Wrexham/Flintshire Border Narrowly Refused
PLANS for a Christmas tree farm and reindeer centre near the Wrexham / Flintshire border have been narrowly refused.
Wrexham Council’s planning committee rejected the partly retrospective proposals to change the use of grazing land near Llay Road in Cefn-y-Bedd, but the decision was tight with just one vote in it.
The land is being used as a Christmas tree farm and outdoor recreation centre, with these plans proposing a ‘reindeer centre’, paddle boarding facilities and water-related activities, an extension of the existing lake on-site and the creation of bark footpaths.
A new building to provide office space was also mooted, along with a machine and equipment store, hay/straw storage and a sick/maternity bay for reindeer. A car park, new access and site-wide landscaping was also proposed.
But the application had been recommended for refusal by planning officers due to local river pollution concerns caused by a potential increase in phosphates.
A consultant from Goodwin Planning Services, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said that was an “unsubstantiated claim” and that nearby properties were further away than reported by planning officers.
He added: “We’ve offered to accept a condition that a plan showing the location of the drainage field which must be 200m away from any existing drainage field, must be submitted to the council.
“I’m a little at a loss as to why this is still being pushed for refusal by officers.”
He said evidence had also been provided to officers showing it would take 11 reindeer to produce the equivalent waste of a single cow, on land that previously had more than 100 beef cattle on it.
Llay Cllr Rob Walsh (Ind) spoke in support, but added he expected safety could have been used as a reason for refusal as the road is dangerous for pedestrians and there is only one narrow footway there, with residents regularly pleading for it to be widened.
He added: “Phosphates has caused massive problems around Wrexham generally, it’s held up so many developments.
“I’d hoped a lot of the phosphate issues were behind us so the fact this is now being used as an issue for refusal is disappointing. There does seem to be an inconsistency in what is acceptable and what isn’t.
“It seems to me everything is being based on opinion but there is no firm measurement.”
Cllr Walsh added: “It is operating on a licence basis a handful of days a year.
“Residents have had a taste of it. This is a popular development. Everyone I know who has visited has said what a brilliant attraction – this has the potential to be a really good attraction not just for Llay but the whole Wrexham area.
“I will work with the applicant, officers, highways and planning to make sure that this development is not only a success but doesn’t add to any environmental pollution or problems.
“I know it’s only November but I hope we have a bit of Christmas cheer already and support this application, not just for the residents of my ward who have already fallen in love with this place but people in your wards. It would be a shame to lose it.”
Planning officer Matthew Phillips said there was no inconsistency on the phosphates issue, but it depended on whether developments were served by mains sewers which this one would not be.
On the highways issue, officers added that the likelihood of pedestrians travelling on foot was low, and “insufficient mechanisms” in place to ensure phosphates mitigation.
Opposing the plans, Llay Cllr Bryan Apsley (Lab) said he sent in 18 concerns in September last year which had not been included in the planning officers’ report.
Concerns ranged from highways and pedestrian safety to ecological issues, but acknowledged there was demand for the facility.
He said he felt “business reasons are outweighing the safety of the public and this cannot be right”.
Cllr Apsley said he had seen 72 cars parked either side of the road over a three-hour period during a recent event there.
Chair of the committee, Holt Cllr Mike Morris (Con) asked officers to look at why Cllr Apsley’s concerns were not recorded which follows a similar incident last year when he was misquoted by officers in his comments about an extension to Ballswood Quarry, for which officers apologised.
Ruabon Cllr Dana Davies (Lab) reluctantly suggested refusal, adding “we’re here to do a job and we have to consider phosphates pollution”.
But Glyn Ceiriog Cllr Trevor Bates (Ind) suggested deferment, saying: “If we’re not careful we’ll have all our children thinking Christmas trees come from supermarkets not from farms.
“Can we not get some more facts rather than clutching at straws? I think we’re seen to be trying to stop business prospering in this county.”
A move to defer the application was lost, and when put to the vote, the planning committee was split with seven councillors in favour and seven against.
Chair of the committee Cllr Morris used his casting vote to refuse the plans.
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