- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
The Petitions Committee, on which I serve, allows people to express their opinions about a matter of pressing local concern without necessarily going through the often long-drawn-out procedures that are not always appropriate when the concern is immediate and urgent.
We have received a petition from Aberystwyth Students’ Union, signed by nearly 200 people, urging the Welsh Government to investigate the housing situation in the town. The petition is, in part, a response to the 2012 Aberystwyth Housing Survey Report, which raised concerns about the poor standard of student accommodation and the poor treatment of students in the private rented sector.
As it happened, on the same day that the students from Aberystwyth presented the petition to the Assembly, I sent a letter to the Chief Executive of Ceredigion County Council on another urgent housing matter. I asked how on earth the fiasco, whereby 50 students have been living under the threat of eviction because their homes were built without the right planning permission, could go unchecked or unnoticed by the authority. Thankfully, the immediate threat has eased with news that demolition has been delayed until summer 2014. Serious questions must be answered, however.
Here is the letter:
Miss E. M. Bronwen Morgan, Chief Executive
Ceredigion County Council
21 May 2013
Dear Miss Morgan
I was very concerned to read the front page article in the Aberystwyth edition of the Cambrian News of 16 May 2013.
The headline, as you will be aware, was Eviction threat as developer is told to tear down flats. The sub-heading was 50 students in homes with no planning consent.
The planning process as depicted on the website of Ceredigion County Council is admirable in its clarity, transparency and the step-by-step illustration of the process. Sadly, if the Cambrian News story has any credence, then the practice is very different from the theory.
According to the report, major steps in the process were ignored or ridden roughshod over. Clearly, officers should have acted. The obvious question is this. Why was this fiasco allowed to go unchecked or unnoticed for what I believe was a period of six months? In addition to all the other considerations, as the tenants were students, how did the council not notice that suddenly there were increased numbers of residents at this address? How did officers fail to notice that this property had failed to gain planning permission? The effect on the mainly young people who have suffered is distressing to say the least. What would have been the consequences for these tenants had any safety issues arisen?
I am extremely disappointed at the level of failure of Ceredigion County Council to implement the very basic requirements to ensure security of tenure for the students. To be completely blunt, I want to know what you and your colleagues intend to do to make sure that such a fiasco does not happen again.
Joyce Watson AM/AC
More information about the petition is available at: http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=6519
Image Caption: Petitions Committee members receiving Aberystwyth Students’ Union petition at the Senedd