Saturday 4 February 2012

Carmarthenshire Local Development Plan - could do better

In an unusually busy agenda for next week's meeting of Carmarthenshire's Executive Board, the highly controversial Local Development Plan (LDP) makes a reappearance. As seems to becoming the norm for the county council, the report produced for the Board's consideration is another scrappy and badly edited document, which leaves readers guessing and wondering what may have been meant or left out. For example the main report ends abruptly with the enigmatic words:

LDP this report seeks authority to produce and adopt 6.

The last, and rather badly advertised consultation period which ended on 19 August 2011, attracted over 2,000 responses. Readers may recall that while the council was advertising all sorts of fluff on its website (e.g. "Shine Awards"), the piece alerting residents to the most important consultation in the county in many years disappeared from view about half way through the consultation period.

What we can glean from the latest report is that there will be a new 6-week consultation on changes to the proposed development sites included in the plan. More sites have been nominated, others will be dropped or changed in size, scale, etc. Fair enough.

It also seems to be the case, although the full report is not exactly clear about this, that the Welsh Government has come back with a number of concerns on a whole range of matters, and that as a result, the Council will need to undertake more work on establishing that the plan is, in the jargon, "sound". More on this below.

As a result, the timetable for the LDP will have to be amended (i.e. pushed back), although we are not told what the new timetable may look like. If Plaid wins in the May elections, let's hope that the party will follow up on its criticism of the LDP and pull the plug.

But back to the Welsh Government, which categorises its initial findings under 4 headings according to the seriousness of shortcomings in the plan.

Under category A, the most serious in terms of concern expressed in Cardiff, there were shortcomings in four areas (flood risk, especially housing allocations; impact on European habitats; timing and infrastructure; and the monitoring framework).

Under category B, which essentially means that the council is at odds with national policy, there are no fewer than 7 areas of significant concern, according to Cardiff. These include:

  • Scale and location of settlement growth
  • Scale of affordable housing
  • Employment
  • Impact on the Welsh Language
  • Gypsy and Traveller sites
All in all, then, it seems that there is lots of room for improvement for the self-styled "Best Council in Wales".

The 2,000 or so people who responded to the initial consultation, as well as those who responded late and whose submissions will be disregarded (for a process as long-winded as this with plenty of time left to consider submissions, that is surely unacceptable), can thank their lucky stars that the council has to submit everything to Cardiff for approval.

At least there's a chance that the council won't be able to steamroller its way through this time.

No comments: