There were two other members of the public in the Council Chambers when I got there last night, concerned about planning applications to be considered by the Council. Another lady (David Howard's wife - he was there at the beginning and made a case against the plans for the site of the old community centre) came towards the end of the meeting, because she thought that the public would be able to speak at the end, rather than the beginning.
It's worth mentioning this, because the system the council have at the moment has been refined over a period of time, and this seems to work best. Members of the public are generally not allowed to speak during a council meeting - this is true of all councils. But they can raise a point or ask a question, and in Hay it was decided to have this at the beginning, so that members of the public don't have to sit through lots of business they have no interest in, just so they can ask one quick question. And then they can stay, or leave, as they wish.
One of the items of interest was the easement which the Council have been asked to grant to Persimmon, to lay a pipe across the old railway line which the Council own. They have offered £25,000 to do this. The lady who had come to speak about that suggested that £40,000 would be a fair price, working out at £500 a house for the development. When the councillors came to that item on the agenda, they said that they had sought independent advice, and it had been suggested that £30,000 was the going rate for these things. So that is what they are going to ask Persimmon for, subject to planning permission for the houses being granted by the National Parks. Persimmon have already said that, if the Council do not grant the easement, they will start negotiating with landowners to the sides of the council property.
Persimmon have also provided plans, including the size of the pipe they want to use for the drainage system. Gareth, who lives right on top of the field where the development is planned, abstained from voting. Alan Powell, who has experience of these things from his time with the fire brigade, said the size of the pipe seemed reasonable. Fiona Howard is still concerned about the planned pond, which seems now will only be filling with water when it's wet weather, and be a dry depression the rest of the time, with the pipe leading out of it. Trudy said she really had no idea what was reasonable and what wasn't - the councillors are not building experts, so it's difficult to give a reasoned decision on these matters.
She was also concerned that the Council is looking at the different planning applications in isolation, rather than taking an overall view, as the field opposite the Co-op, on the English side of the border, is being considered to have 25 houses built on it, as well as the 80 at Gypsy Castle and the 19 at the Community Centre site, and I think there was another site mentioned as well - and all those people will need doctors and dentists and school places and so on, and there will be increased traffic as they drive to work.
Trudy is back, being very involved as a councillor, having offered her resignation last month. So there are two vacancies on the council which need to be filled. Two of the councillors were even trying to recruit new councillors at the Senior Citizens' Party! Another suggestion was to look seriously at finding younger people to co-opt, in the 16 to 25 year old age range.
Nigel the Town Clerk is also back, with rather less hair than he had before.
Another problem area with the plans is the access via Gypsy Castle, where the road narrows, and the councillors were not happy with the amended plans. Someone from the Highways Department is being asked to come to speak to the Council about it.
Roads and access are also a problem for the other site which is being considered by the council - the old community centre site where the developers want to build 19 houses for social housing. The drive is very close to the corner of Oxford Road and the junction with Lion Street (leading into Heol-y-Dwr). Apparently someone from the developers has been doing a traffic survey there, and claims that the average speed of vehicles on that corner is 23 miles per hour! Which seems unlikely - in my experience, cars travel a lot faster than that along that stretch of road.
This was not the only objection to the development. Fiona Howard was dismayed at how small the houses were, and that they only had a little patch of tarmac for a rotary washing line, and nowhere for children to play - since this is supposed to be for young families. There is also the problem of flooding on the site, which needs to be addressed. Water has been known to pour down the drive, across Oxford Road, and into the houses opposite and lower down the hill.
So at the moment, the Council is unhappy with the plans to both these developments, and letters are being drafted to send to the planning authorities with their concerns.
One small planning matter was the application to put an awning up over the area at the end of the Cheesemarket, to cover the tables and chairs from Shepherd's Ice Cream Parlour, which nobody had any objection to.
There were three other planning applications before the Council, all of which need to be looked at in more detail than there was time for last night (the meeting ended at about 10pm). One is for the building work on the Castle, which is a major project; the second is for Pharos House, and I'm afraid I didn't catch what the third one is. However, the Council will be meeting next week just to consider those plans in a special meeting.