The Duke of Beaufort’s Somerset Trust, owner of part of Clyne Common on Gower, City and County of Swansea, has for a second time withdrawn its application for a common-land swap. Having twice objected to the proposals, we are pleased that the common appears to be saved, but are angry that the trust has wasted everyone’s time—twice over.
The trustees of the Somerset Trust applied to the Welsh environment minister, via the Planning Inspectorate, to deregister 2.6 hectares on the eastern side of the common in order to build affordable housing there, and to replace this with farm land, two kilometres away on the western border of the common, at Ryeground Farm.
The Open Spaces Society and around 70 other organisations and individuals objected or made representations on the plan. The land proposed for development is close to residential areas whereas the alternative land is far from them, making the proposed exchange inequitable. There is a right for the public to walk and ride over the whole common.
Says Hugh Craddock, one of our case officers: ‘In Wales, unlike in England, those applying to exchange common land are not required to pay a fee, even though the proposal may be wholly of private benefit to the applicant. Thus, it is all too easy for applicants to test the waters with an application, without any prior consultation, wasting the time and money, both of the public purse through the Planning Inspectorate, and the many people and bodies who objected.
‘While we are pleased at the outcome, we fear that the trust may come back with a third application. We shall write to the Welsh minister to ask that the government imposes a charge for applications to swap common land, so as to deter frivolous applications and ensure that the public does not pay for applications which are of private benefit.’