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Planning Officer warns council farm shop approval would be ‘worse decision authority will make’

PLANS to build a farm shop on the outskirts of a village in Wrexham have been approved by councillors despite them being sternly warned not to.

An application to create a 262-square-metre shop and cafe in a field off the Straight Mile in Llay was considered by councillors on Monday (July 5, 2021).

It was put forward by the owners of Rackery Farm, a 100-acre dairy farm located in nearby Burton, who want to sell local produce.

Members of Wrexham Council’s planning committee were advised by an official to turn down the application due to the “unsustainable” location in the open countryside.

Planning officer David Williams later went even further and cautioned it would be “one of the worst decisions that this authority will make” if they granted permission.

However, they went against his recommendation after hearing the scheme had received widespread public support and was only a short distance from a development of 362 houses at Home Farm.

Llay councillor Rob Walsh said: “I believe this application has got plenty going for it – it’s a farm shop and it’s not a general retail outlet or supermarket and its purpose is to maintain a countryside feel.

“This application is not actually slap bang in the middle of nowhere.

“It is across the road from a very large housing estate, and we’ve also recently had a new Aldi which hasn’t been built yet but has been approved.

“You also have two very popular local restaurants either side of the Straight Mile at The Crown and the Croes Howell.

“This proposal has been very well received in the Llay community after the local press has drawn attention to it.”

The agricultural business had already expanded previously by creating a luxury glamping site known as Rackery Retreat.

The farm shop plans received the support of Llay Community Council and the area’s other local representative Bryan Apsley.

Rossett councillor Hugh Jones, who sits on the council’s executive board, also voiced his backing on the basis that it would support the economy.

He said: “It was very interesting listening to the planning officer in terms of his introduction because he said that if ever an application was against planning policy, then this was it.

“Interestingly, the application for houses on the opposite side of the road was against every planning policy but it was recommended because of exceptional circumstances.

“I think what we have here are importance circumstances as this is to sustain the agricultural community and to help develop a business in the rural area, all of which is part of Welsh Government policy and Welsh Government strategy.”

Mr Williams cautioned the committee that other farm shops had developed into larger enterprises over time.

He also expressed his frustration at councillors for choosing to ignore his advice.

He said: “I must admit I’m a bit disillusioned by the discussion.

“As I pointed out at the outset, it’s a clear-cut case of being contrary to policy.

“I’ve listened to the observations made by a number of members, and I’ve still not heard any plausible planning material justification to allow this development.”

He added: “I think it’s one of the worst decisions this authority will make if they allow it because it opens the door to out of control development in the open countryside

“I think you need to think extremely carefully about how this is handled.”

Despite his observations, the committee voted to grant permission by eleven votes to seven with one abstention.

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