The Welsh Government published a new set of housing estimates in February of this year based on the 2011 Census which showed a decrease in demand for new homes in Wales.
In Carmarthenshire the new statistics anticipate that around 5,400 new homes will be needed by 2021, compared with an estimate of 11,600 back in 2008 which was used as the basis for the council's Local Development Plan. That's a decrease of 53%.
On 10th April Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration wrote to Welsh local authorities to say that the lower estimates reflected recent changes and were a result of global economic conditions.
He warns that it would not be wise to base plans which cover a period of 15-20 years on the extremely difficult economic conditions of recent years. Local planning authorities should analyse all relevant sources of evidence as they tried to make estimates of housing need rather than depending solely on the Welsh Government's estimates which were, he said, just a starting point rather than an aim in themselves.
Cllr Alun Lenny (Plaid, Carmarthen Town South) has taken a leading role in questioning key aspects of the Carmarthenshire LDP currently going through a very long and complex process of adoption. He has also campaigned strongly against the council's Carmarthen West site where up to 1,200 new houses could be built.
Commenting on the Welsh Government's refusal to reconsider its population estimates and projections for house building requirements, Cllr Lenny said:
"Back in 2008 when the housing market was running out of control and on the point of imploding, the Welsh Government was happy enough to use current estimates when it set a target of 11,600 new houses in Carmarthenshire by 2021. But now they are refusing to accept the lower estimates from 2011 as a measure to assess current and future house building requirements.
"It is not possible to avoid seeing this in a political light because it is obvious that this is the Welsh Government's political objective rather than an honest and sensible strategy to meet the real housing needs of Wales. The policy adopted by the Labour Government in Cardiff reflects the central Labour Party's intention to build a million houses in England within five years if it is returned at the next General Election.
"The result of such a policy could be disastrous for Wales in terms of the impact it will have on Welsh-speaking communities, as we well know. But it would also be harmful to the environment with a number of local development plans setting their sights on hundreds of acres of good agricultural land. The day will come when food is scarce, and we will regret covering so much farmland with concrete. Furthermore, as was shown in the heavy rains this year and the year before, a number of new estates have been built on land which is prone to flooding.
"As far as helping the economy is concerned, local builders and companies stand to derive very little benefit from the strategy of building huge housing estates. The big companies bring their workers and trades with them. On the other hand, allowing local development based on demand and sensible and realistic estimates would be more likely to create work for local companies and trades, less damaging to the environment, and likely to strengthen the position of Welsh in the community rather than weaken it."
In Cardiff there has been strong opposition to the council's LDP which would see massive new development on green field sites around the city. Last week Cllr Neil McEvoy, the leader of the Plaid group on the council, organised a referendum in Fairwater ward, and 98% of those who voted rejected the plan.
Cllr McEvoy called on areas across Wales (article in Welsh on Golwg360) to "rise up" and use the ballot box to stop undemocratic local development plans which would benefit only big companies.
Writing on his blog, Jac o' the North provides a very good analysis and explanation of how the LDPs have come about.