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Julie Morgan : I agree with the points that the hon. Gentleman is making. Does he agree that it is important for us to convey them to the public? It is sometimes difficult for the public to understand that the policy is successful in Wales, and that not imposing an ASBO represents a success.
Mr. Llwyd: Absolutely. The hon. Lady is right. I understand that the Welsh Affairs Committee has been trying to make that public. The last thing I want to do is to criminalise youngsters, who will probably grow out of the behaviour in a fairly short time. If they can be assisted through the first four stages of the process, well and good. The hon. Lady is right that people do not realise that the fact that ASBOs are not being applied for is a good thing, rather than a bad one. It behoves us all across the spectrum to consider that and to speak candidly with our constituents and explain the position.
Of course we need more community beat officers. I am not always a fan of the North Wales policenot an unqualified fan, anywaybut I must congratulate the force on creating community beat officers throughout the North Wales area and giving them extra salaries to keep them in that work for five years, or whatever the agreed period is. I am very happy with the excellent work that is being done. I speak as one whose father was a police officer who served in Holyhead and Amlwch in Anglesey. My brother is also a serving police officer.
I can see the good sense in community beat officers. It is reckoned that 90 per cent. of all crimes are solved as a result of information passed on by the public. If there is a good link and a good relationship between an officer and the public, the policing becomes better and everybody wins hands down. It is said to be an expensive form of policing, but there must be a read-across to the prevention of crime. I recognise that the nature of
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modern crime has changed and that rapid response vehicles are needed, but there will always be a role for the traditional bobby, the community beat manager.
Before I conclude, I want to praise Dyfed-Powys police for its initiative of opening up offices throughout the police area, in some places taking the corner of a shop. That is far-sighted of the force, which is enhancing its estate rather than cutting back. There might be just a table and a hot phone, and sometimes civilians manning the point. That is good practice, which I hope will be emulated by others.
I am not suggesting that I have all the answers this evening, but in the spirit of reasonable political discourse I hope that some of the points that I have made will be picked up by other hon. Members and that we might have a further discussion, in particular about the housing issue. I am pleased that I am meeting the Minister on Wednesday.
Mr. Martin Caton (Gower) (Lab): I should like to take the opportunity of this debate to focus on a local issue in my constituencyone that I believe has lessons certainly for the whole of the city and county of Swansea, of which Gower is part, and for the planning system throughout Wales and perhaps the United Kingdom.
Since the last local government elections, Labour no longer runs Swansea. Fellow fans of the excellent Russell Davies television serial "Mine All Mine" might have the impression that it is now in the charge of Max Vivaldi and its name has been changed to Barbara, but that is not the case, I am afraid. In fact, in charge now is a ragbag mixture of Liberal Democrats, Tories and independents from across the political spectrum. This is a coalition that is so broad and so unprincipled that there is even room in it for people who copy their election literature word for word, picture for picture, from British National party leaflets. So perhaps it is no surprise that it is prepared to renege on its commitments to the communities of Swansea and drive a coach and horses through its own planning policies if someone offers it enough money.
Gorseinon, the small town at the heart of my constituency, was, until a few weeks ago, to be the home of a new state-of-the-art bowling and leisure pavilion, providing facilities for all ages, both local and from farther afield. We were within days of seeing a planning application when the rug was pulled. What happened? Asda and Wal-Mart came along with a big fat wallet and offered the council £11 million to lease the same piece of land for a superstore, and it jumped at it. In doing so, it is not just breaking a promise to Gorseinon and the bowlers of Swansea, and, incidentally, upsetting the tennis players of the region as it now intends to put the bowls facility in the indoor tennis centre at Morfa, it is going against every policy that applies to the site. They are the Lliw valley local plan, the new Swansea unitary development plan, the Gorseinon regeneration strategy and the specific site development brief itselfall the major planning guidance documents that are supposed to inform the council as it decides the way forward for that city. Those polices ruled out large-scale food retailing on the land because the council knew that a superstore would threaten the viability of many of the
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small shops in the high street and jeopardise the regeneration of the whole town. But now it is prepared to tear those policies up for cash. It is not just selling Gorseinon down the river, it is undermining the integrity of its own planning system.
Between them, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons control over 76 per cent. of the food retailing market in the UK. In 2000, the Competition Commission defined the grocery market as a complex monopoly that works against the long-term interests of the consumer. The National Retail Planning Forum, which is partly funded by the supermarkets, recently studied the changes that have taken place in the areas surrounding 93 new superstores. It found that the stores were responsible for a net loss of 25,685 employees. In other words, every time a large supermarket opened 276 people lost their jobs. It is probably true that sometimes a new supermarket can provide a focus and encourage people to use neighbouring retailers and other facilities when they do their main grocery shopping, but I think that that scenario is rare and I am absolutely certain that it is not the one that we face in Gorseinon.
In 1998, the New Economics Foundation calculated that every £50,000 spent in small local shops creates one job. In supermarkets, £250,000 has to be spent to create extra employment. This is exactly the wrong time to move in this direction. Increasingly, people are finding that they prefer the experience of shopping in a traditional high street to that of supermarket buying.
Gorseinon high street is looking better today than at any time in the last decade or more, partly thanks to a successful and stable economy and partly thanks to a regeneration strategy that was supported by the council. The people of Gorseinon, I am pleased to say, are not taking this lying down. The community council, the chamber of trade, city councillors, the Assembly Member, Edwina Hart, and I as Member of Parliament are working together to stop this happening. We are mounting a campaign to convince people across Swansea that this is a bad decision, not made for good, objective reasons after due consideration and proper consultation, but made in a hurry in response to a very large financial inducement.
That is bad news for every part of the city and county of Swansea, because a promise broken in Gorseinon today can be a commitment reneged on in any part of the county tomorrow. A totally inappropriate development in Gorseinon imposed for money this year can mean future blight for any other community when similar resources are offered in the years ahead. That has to be resisted now.
If the development is allowed to go ahead, it will effectively be a shift in policy from looking to shared resources and opportunities throughout the city and county of Swansea towards centralisation of facilities in a limited number of the locations. The consequences of that approach will impact on communities throughout Swansea. At the same time, we intend to persuade councillors from across the political spectrum, including in the ruling administration, that this is a wrong decision for the future of the council itself. It is a wrong decision that has been made in the wrong way, and it will damage the reputation of the council if the direction is not changed, and not just in the short term.
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We are reminding councillors of all parties of their commitments and responsibility in respect of the principles of openness and transparency, community involvement and developing trust through engagement. We have seen precious little of any of that in Gorseinon in recent weeks. If those words are anything more than meaningless jargon, the council should reverse its decision and enter into proper consultation with the community about its future.
In the next Parliament, we need to look at ways in which we can protect communities such as Gorseinon from administrations such as the one in power in this city when they blatantly ignore their own democratically developed planning policesperhaps through a limited third-party right of appeal. I remember that it was at one time Labour party policy to move away from the presumption in favour of development when a council acting as planning authority went against its own adopted planning policies, particularly in the local plan, which has now been replaced by the unitary development plan in Wales. In those circumstances, members of the community would be able to use the appeal process to challenge a determination of approval. I think that we should take another look at that policy.
We have not yet reached the stage of a planning application for an Asda superstore in Gorseinon. When we do, I hope that good sense and good judgment will prevail and that the proposal will be thrown out. What I can tell this House is that the people of Gorseinon will fight Swansea council's money-grabbing U-turn every inch of the way.
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