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Welsh councillor who started coffee shop and wine bar without planning permission found to be in “serious breach” of code of conduct Published Date: 13/02/2022

A Vale of Glamorgan councillor who sits on the local authority's planning committee has been found in breach of its code of conduct after establishing a cafe without first securing planning permission.

Cllr Leighton Rowlands, who has been a member of the planning committee since 2017, was suspended for a month for what the standards committee called a "serious breach" of the code of conduct that brought the council and town council into disrepute.

The councillor and a business partner opened the coffee shop and wine bar named The Watering Hole in June 2019. The building was previously a shop and therefore a change of use planning application was required for the building to be used as a cafe.

Cllr Rowlands applied for planning permission but decided to open the establishment before the council decided on the case. At a Standards Committee meeting held late last month (January 26), the councillor said he had limited knowledge of planning law when asked to explain his decision. 

Sinead Cook, Assistant Investigation Manager for the Ombudsman, told the committee: "The establishment required the change of use of planning permission, and Cllr Rowlands was aware of that at the time. And the Senior Planning Officer has given evidence to say that they told Cllr Rowlands and his colleague that, although it was not illegal, if the business did open, it would be in breach of planning control, and there was a risk of enforcement action".

Once the Monitoring Officer raised the issues concerning the planning breach with Cllr Rowlands, the councillor quickly moved to close the business down. Although he was unsuccessful in shuttering the business, he eventually resigned, withdrew the planning application and took no further part in the business and planning process. As a result, he also lost his investment in the company.

Source: Local Government Lawyer