A faction of Wrexham councillors has commenced a legal challenge, contesting what they perceive as an “unjust and undemocratic scenario” surrounding the adoption of the county’s Local Development Plan (LDP). This move follows a Judge’s nullification of two prior votes by Wrexham Councillors rejecting the LDP, characterising the council’s actions as a deliberate evasion of its legal responsibilities.
The imbroglio surrounding Wrexham Council’s management of the LDP began when, in November, a High Court Judge invalidated the initial rejections of the plan, obliging the council to conduct a fresh vote. This extraordinary meeting transpired in December, but dissension among councillors emerged, with some expressing unease about what they perceived as pressure to contradict their convictions.
Councillor Carrie Harper, illustrating the tensions within the council, drew analogies, stating, “It feels like there’s a sword hanging over us,” emphasising the potential repercussions, including legal action and imprisonment, should the council opt to contravene the Judge’s decree.
Presently, a crowdfunding initiative on the legal fundraising platform CrowdJustice, purportedly organised by Wrexham Councillors, has amassed approximately £3,500 in pledges. The funds aim to secure legal counsel to contest what the campaigners argue is a compromised democratic process.
According to a statement on the CrowdJustice page, the consortium of housing developers instigated the legal action against Wrexham Council in November 2023, asserting that the council’s refusal to adopt the LDP was inequitable. The court, faced with an uncontested case, annulled the prior votes and mandated a re-vote, conducted in December 2023.
“We believe this case will have repercussions for councillors across the entirety of Wales and the UK, as well as residents everywhere affected by local plans and applications,” the statement reads. The group contends that the present state of the LDP does not serve the best interests of Wrexham and its residents, propelling their quest for a court review of the council’s decision through proceedings in the planning court.
The campaigners underscore the urgency of their cause, noting that time is of the essence and that they need to raise a total of £6,500 to secure comprehensive legal advice. The appeal, with a total goal of £6,500, has garnered support and is scheduled to run for the next 26 days.
This legal challenge unfolds against the backdrop of heightened scrutiny over local development plans and their impact on communities, with potential ramifications extending beyond the confines of Wrexham. As the fundraising campaign gains momentum, it underscores the profound concerns of councillors regarding the fairness and democratic integrity of the decision-making process.
Responding to queries about the legal challenge, Wrexham Council has refrained from comment, citing that it is an ongoing legal matter. The council’s stance in this matter will likely face increasing scrutiny as the case progresses, with implications for local councils and communities likely to be far-reaching.
In conclusion, the evolving legal challenge against Wrexham Council’s decision on the Local Development Plan elucidates the intricacies surrounding local governance and the delicate equilibrium between fulfilling legal obligations and respecting the convictions of elected representatives. As the appeal on CrowdJustice gains traction, the outcome of the court’s adjudication remains uncertain, and the potential repercussions for councillors and communities extend not only to Wrexham but also across Wales and the broader UK.