Tuesday 18 March 2014

Council's "fantasy" house building targets

All over Wales councils are grinding through the very long-winded process of finalising their Local Development Plans, and all of them are based on wholly unrealistic projections of population growth and housing need. In Wrexham the target is for a 27% increase in the number of homes in the next 20 years. In Denbighshire there are plans for 1,700 new houses in the village of Boddelwyddan and 8,000 across the county as a whole. In a local referendum in Boddelwyddan 93% voted against the plans, but the views of local people are being ignored.

In Cardiff there are plans for 41,000 new homes. In Gwynedd and Môn Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg is organising a rally in Caernarfon to protest against 8,000 new homes under the LDP for those two counties.

All of this is happening against a background of a rise in the number of empty properties and a huge overhang of developments which have been given planning permission but where no building has taken place. Critics of the plans also argue that the LDPs, which provide for very large new housing developments on greenfield sites, favour the big house building companies over small local firms. For example, Carmarthenshire wants to build 1,200 new houses just to the west of Carmarthen, a scheme which will require such massive investment in infrastructure that only the big boys need apply (with the council funding much of the infrastructure work).

As Rhodri Glyn Thomas points out in the piece from the Tivyside Advertiser below, the LDP process is incredibly long-winded and of mind boggling complexity. Built into it are numerous public consultations, but anyone wishing to have their say will find that they first have to read through masses of documentation which is presented in a labyrinth of files, appendices, spreadsheets and topic papers. Having written in once, you will then be asked to write in again and again as the different stages of the plan unfold, before finally being invited to public hearings which are invariably held at times when most people are at work.

The hearings with the planning inspectors are often attended only by council officers, the inspectors and the developers themselves. The result is a juggernaut with a veneer of democratic accountability and consultation which is being pushed through against the wishes of local people.

What is needed now is for councils to join forces and tell the Welsh Government and planning inspectorate that the plans need a radical rethink.


Assembly Member Rhodri Glyn Thomas has this week called for a moratorium on Carmarthenshire’s Local Development Plan after new figures released by StatsWales for the Welsh government show the county will permit the building of thousands of houses over and above the county’s projected need.

The latest household projections for Wales released on the 27th February show the number of new houses Carmarthenshire will need will be 11,600 over twenty five years (between 2011 and 2036).

But Carmarthenshire’s Local Development Plan - which is currently with the planning inspector - plans for around 10,000 houses in just the next 15 years – almost what the county needs with 10 years to spare.
Plaid Cymru’s Rhodri Glyn Thomas says the latest housing projections are enough to halt the LDP in order for planners to think again about the impact of over-development in the county.

Branding LDPs as an ‘absolute fantasy’, Rhodri Glyn Thomas this week raised the matter with the Welsh government’s Housing Minister.

The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Assembly Member said:

“The latest housing projections from StatsWales support what Plaid Cymru has said throughout Wales for a very long time – that the house building targets in the LDPs are absolute fantasy and should be scrapped.
“The extremely complex and confusing processes of the LDP can often mask the true extent of development in an area. But what we now know is that the current planned LDP for Carmarthenshire will see around 25 years worth of housing development within 15 years.

“These are not my figures. These are figures from the Welsh Government’s own StatsWales department.
“There is no local need for this scale of over development, and a ‘build at all costs’ attitude will do nothing to secure the unique and vibrant culture, heritage and characteristics of our towns and villages.

“I believe there should be a moratorium on the current LDP. County planners should get back to the drawing board to come up with a realistic plan in line with Carmarthenshire’s true need.”

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