IN JANUARY 2017 the St Davids Peninsula Community Land Trust and Premier Inn entered into a pre-planning process with the National Park for the development of 87 units of housing and a 60 bedroom hotel. The housing comprised 50 homes for rent, 17 homes for affordable purchase (shared equity) and 20 homes for sale on the open market, the profit from which would provide match-funding for the proposed new swimming pool.

Following a series of meetings, which also involved the Pembrokeshire Housing Association, the proposal was refined to 73 homes, 38 for rent, 10 for shared equity, five low-cost family homes and 20 for open market sale.

It is intended that the homes for rent will be allocated according to a local letting policy agreed between the Housing Association and the county council, which ensures people with local connections to the communities of St Davids, Llanrhian, Mathry, Brawdy and Solva will have priority. This policy was successfully applied to new homes built in Roch, Camrose and Marloes, all of which were allocated to local people.

With regard to the homes for affordable purchase these will also be offered in the first instance to local people at a fixed price. In the event of an affordable home being resold the owner would only be allowed to sell it back to the Community Land Trust - the selling price calculated by adding a percentage to the purchase price related to the increase in the average wage over the period of ownership. In this way the affordable homes would be available to local people in perpetuity.

To reach this stage members of the CLT have put in hundreds of hours of work, attending countless local meetings and conferences in Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol involving the cooperative housing movement, Welsh Government, the Charity Bank, and other community land trusts. Beyond the time that they have put in, CLT members have also met all their own expenses and paid for vital professional fees out of their own pockets. Key partners, LA Architects, Brighton, have also worked on the project at no charge from the very beginning in 2009 when the St Davids swimming pool was closed. The principal, Mike Lawless, is a Pembrokeshire boy who heard about the campaign to replace the pool and offered to help. To date his firm’s contribution amounts to £35,000 in unbilled fees for the pool and £65,000 for the housing, without which the project would never have got off the ground. Three public exhibitions of the scheme have been held in St Davids. The feed-back from the public on each occasion has been incorporated into the detail of the scheme.

The design of the pool has been particularly shaped by the public response. In turn this enabled a brief to be given to the consultancy, Leisure Republic, to prepare the operating business plan for the pool, which was completed in April 2011.

All attempts, however, to obtain funding to take the project forward to planning, bar a grant of £4,000 from the National CLT Network, failed. Hoped-for grants and loans from Planed, Pembrokeshire County Council and Welsh Government never materialised.

The project was effectively on stop.

It was only when Premier Inn arrived on the scene in 2016 when the company obtained an option agreement to purchase land from the owners on Glasfryn Lane that the situation changed. The CLT had no means of influencing this agreement, but it did as a result find itself in a position to receive financial help from Premier Inn. Premier Inn offered to meet all necessary site investigation costs relating to the CLT’s housing development as well as pay for the CLT’s application, a total of £100,000, enabling the CLT to at last proceed to making a planning application. The CLT Board took a pragmatic decision to accept this help, which is now the subject of such controversy.

NOPi, the anti-Premier Inn campaign, is demanding that the CLT withdraw all cooperation with Premier Inn and in particular, its proposal to proceed with a joint planning application to the National Park planned for July 2017.

Without a joint planning application with Premier Inn, however, the landowner would not sell the land to the CLT, but would seek an alternative commercial partner of which there are many.

The consequences of the CLT not proceeding with a joint application with Premier Inn would be (i) No match-funding for the swimming pool, which would mean it would never be built; (ii) A real likelihood of no affordable housing for purchase for local people; (iii) A potential reduction in homes for rent for local people from 38 to as few as 20; (iv) The loss of homes for local people in which to raise families to replace those lost to second homes and holiday homes, which in turn would put pressure on the future viability of Ysgol Dewi Sant; (v) The loss of 20 all-year-round jobs that would have partly addressed the 50 jobs lost in recent years at St Davids Assemblies - the argument that there are not enough local people to fill existing jobs in St Davids would be countered by the many people with local connections returning to live in the new homes; (vi) The loss of 63 bedrooms which would have replaced the 55 hotel rooms lost following the closure in recent years of Whitesands Bay Hotel, St Non’s Hotel, Glan y Mor and the change of status of Twr y Felin hotel.

I sincerely hope that this dire outcome can be avoided. With the support of local people I am confident that it can. If you are from the St Davids peninsula and would like to show your support for the project then contact me to obtain a membership form to join the St Davids Peninsula Community Land Trust for a fee of £1.

David Lloyd