THE owner of a gun shop that was refused planning permission by Torfaen councillors last year has spoken out after the decision was overturned by inspectors.
Following an enforcement complaint in March 2016, Torfaen County Borough Council was made aware that a gun shop had opened in the Pontnewydd area without planning permission.
This was later received in a retrospective planning ‘change of use’ application, under the brand ‘The Gunshop UK’, based at Croftwick House, Chapel Street.
Councillors voted against council officers’ recommendations to approve the application in October 2016, prohibiting the shop from selling firearms.
But that decision was overturned this month when owner Gareth Young won his appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.
The 38-year-old from Cwmbran – who has been a registered firearms dealer for five years – has criticised the “ignorance” of councillors voting against planning officers recommendations.
“Not one of our local councillors had ever visited us to discuss any of their concerns,” he said.
“The most interesting part of it is that planning officers make decisions based on facts and that decision is overturned by local councillors”.
As previously reported by the Argus, councillors met in October last year to discuss the gun shop and refused the application on two planning grounds.
The first included the use of premises for retail purposes resulting in an “unjustified loss of an industrial and employment premises”.
The second reason included the premises not providing “adequate off-street parking spaces” for the retail use in conjunction with the existing industrial firms in the area.
The inspectorate ruled that Torfaen CBC provided no “substantive evidence” to justify the “unjustified loss” and that the firm would not have a “significant effect” on parking.
The building’s security was also listed as a major concern while the sale of weaponry in a residential area, which includes a primary school, was labelled as “unnerving” by objectors.
Mr Young said he didn’t submit a planning application as the premises had been a retail space for over 40 years.
He added that concerns around security and the sale of weaponry were “not planning concerns” and said he was not invited to the planning meeting to speak in defence of the application.
“No-one knew what we did (as a business) and no-one came to speak to us to find out. I’m licensed to do what I do,” he said.
Responding to the concerns over knives being sold, Mr Young said you can “walk into a supermarket and buy a knife when you’re 18” and stressed that the industry is regulated.
He said: “I work in construction and I understand the planning process and that certain things are unsuitable for certain areas.My biggest point is about how much money the council is wasting (on appeal fees). It’s a cash-strapped council and you have highly qualified officers making decisions.
“Their decisions are overruled by local councillors even though (officers) thought that the (planning) reasons were not valid.
“It has stopped us expanding and doing a lot of the things that we wanted to do as (the decision) has been hanging over us for a year”.
The Gunshop UK now plans to celebrate its first anniversary and to “commit to new contracts with suppliers”.