Saturday 3 May 2014

Little Boxes

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."

Local referenda

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.


Anonymous said...

It would be better if the plans were for "little boxes" but most will be 3 and 4 bedroom detached houses in large estates with no shops, post office,schools, GP's or even pubs within walking distance. One or two "starter homes" will be popped in a far corner as a sop to affordable housing. These new homes will be for people with high salaries or pensions, secure jobs and one car per adult.
Most new estates being occupied now are largely supported by retirees, older families upgrading and massive buy to let investment.
This is a bubble which will burst and we will still have little suitable housing for single people and young couples and small families.
It will all be cheaper, though!

Anonymous said...

What a laugh! Councillor Lenny suggests that the housing requirement estimates from central government are "political".

It couldn't be that Councillor Lenny's objections to having potential Plaid non-voters coming to Carmarthenshire is "Political"...or just the usual xenophobic?

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @ 9.55 - that is unfair. The problem exists across Wales, and it is threatening communities of all sizes. In Carmarthen the council wants to take a huge swathe of green land to build 1,200 houses. Nobody denies that Carmarthen does need more houses, but certainly not 1,200.

I don't see how objecting to that or wondering where all these extra people would work, go to school, get health care etc. is xenophobic.

The logic of your argument seems to be that local communities and their elected representatives should have no say in what happens to them.

Anonymous said...

As a plaid supporter I was disappointed when almost All the plaid group voted in favour of the LDP at the meeting last year.

Anonymous said...

Really Cneifiwr? Is there no evidence that growing population actually leads to greater job opportunities and all round prosperity? Of course this is the case. By your logic every single local councillor should fight and, you hope, succeed in blocking any house construction except that identified just for "Local People". Not so long ago you were bemoaning the loss of local people to other areas....Are they to find that there are no homes for them when they arrive where ever they moved to? Or, let me guess, people who move out to find work in other areas must be provided with homes but people who move in to retire or take employment in Carmarthenshire must find that they have no homes to go to...because of course they aren't "local".

No Cneifiwr, dress it up in all the self righteous hand on heart twaddle you like, Plaid are opportunistic, politically motivated xenophobes obsessed with making sure that non Plaid voters are made as unwelcome as possible and preferably denying them homes to live in.

Cllr Alun Lenny said...

Anonymous 15:01 needs an English lesson. Xenophobia (from the Greek) is defined as "irrational hatred towards foreigners". Opposing huge housing developments on a scale planned by the LDP in certainly not "irrational" for the very real reasons I've previously noted - which are cultural, economic and environmental. Through the accusation of Xenophobia, he/she accuses Plaid of showing "hatred towards foreigners." If "foreigners" in this instance means people from outside Wales or non-Welsh speakers, then he/she is sadly mistaken - as well as being a mischief-maker who seeks to drive a wedge between us. After I spoke against a large housing development in Llandovery last year, which a great many local people (mostly non-Welsh speaking) opposed, I was thanked by the local pressure group formed to oppose the development. My opinion was based on the adverse impact the development would have on a green field site and the burden imposed on local services. By the way, members of the Federation of Master Builders, which represents the interests of small and medium-sized building firms, are unhappy with the huge developments planned by the LDP. Allowing small-scale development and renovation or conversion of existing buildings would give local builders and craftsmen more work and help revive the local economy. It's vital we have a reasoned debate on this very important issue and less sneering uninformed comments please.

Jac o' the North, said...

Anon 08:03 reminds us of a fascinating paradox. The Planning Inspectorate and other agencies with an influence on LDPs defend the large numbers of new dwellings by arguing that there are more people living on their own and more childless couples. Yet what is built are not small houses, bungalows and flats but 3- and 4-bedroom homes! Impossible to reconcile, and strongly suggesting that the former is used, dishonestly, to justify the latter, in the hope no one will have read all the documentation and therefore be in position to see the scam being perpetrated.

As for Anon 09:55 / 15:01 he or she clearly wishes to see the Englishing of Wales. But moving away from such ethnocidal attitudes, how does Anon justify the poorest country in western Europe, with a health service on the point of collapse, encouraging retired and elderly people to move here?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Keep it short is there a welcome in the hill side ??? for people , not in Carmarthenshire Builders need work (jobs for people ) shops need customers etc and young people need houses etc it makes the world go round , and we get a better housing stock in the end , come on look whats going on in the country out side Carmarthenshire were are going back wards , send our councilors on true life course !!!. bring all the policemen and teachers back from London and there will not be many left there .

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @20.51 On consideration your comment was just more name calling and nothing to do with the serious subject of LDPs.

Contributions to the topic are welcome, but please stick to the topic.

Jac o' the North, said...

On reflection, conundrum rather than paradox.

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks Jac. Memo to self - don't write anything after 10pm.

Jac o' the North, said...

Just checked the figures for last year's dwelling completions in Carmarthenshire (StatsWales).

These were 8 1-bed houses, 44 2-bed, 183 3-bed and 188 4-bed; 4 1-bed flats and 14 2-bed. So 84% of all dwellings completed in the county last year were 3- and 4-bedroom houses, over 20% above the Welsh average.

And it will be the same in the years to come even though the LDP makes a big play of the increasing numbers of childless couples and people living alone.

Someone needs to press the council, the Planning Inspectorate and the Welsh Government into explaining how total dwelling numbers can be bumped up by arguing a demand for one- and two-bedroom properties yet what gets built is three- and four-bedroom houses.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that Wales actually does have a policy of encouraging elderly and retired people to move here, unless you are saying that merely "making room" by building homes is sufficient to qualify as "encouragement".

If demographic change is to be charaterised as "ethnocide" then there are far better examples than Carmarthenshire or indeed the Fro Cymraeg. People move home...some leave the county...some arrive, mostly there's balance. How much does Wales suffer from having elderly people making demands on the NHS? Not much I would suggest. I think that the imbalance (Retired people born in Wales, living in England against Retired living in Wales born in England) is about 5,600. Royston merely dreams of Ethnic purity in Wales with all those pesky English (and other nationalities that we aren't allowed to mention) sent away and, of course, Independence as a result.

But remember Royston we're all British and subjects of the Queen.

Cneifiwr said...

"elderly people making demands on the NHS...not much I would suggest".

You must be as fit as a fiddle, because clearly you have not been to a Welsh doctor's surgery recently.

Jac o' the North, said...

Anon, when properties are built in Wales, and advertised in England, as 'Retirement bunglalows' then clearly elderly people are being encouraged to move to Wales.

I get the impression that you follow my blog, so you will know that in the coastal stretch from Barmouth to Machynlleth (where I live) two-thirds of the over 65s were born in England. Please explain why this is a good thing.

Your 'imbalance' figure is unconvincing. Give me the source for this figure.

(P.S. are you also haunting me on Alwyn ap Huw's blog? If it ain't you it must be your twin brother.)

Anonymous said...

I can't get your blog for some reason Royston...otherwise I would certainly read your words of wisdom. I've never posted on Alwyn ap huw's blog and I've just read the comments on the last three posts...none of them sound like me at must have another admirer/stalker.

I see no reason why people shouldn't retire to the seaside or country side either in England or Wales...whichever suits them really. It's true that they won't vote nationalist but from my experience they don't vote at all...quite surprising to me how few bother.

England/Wales country of birth by age. Over 65 imbalance with England is 5,615

Anonymous said...

"Anon, when properties are built in Wales, and advertised in England, as 'Retirement bunglalows' then clearly elderly people are being encouraged to move to Wales"

Yes but Royston you said that the COUNTRY was encouraging retired people to move to Wales...what's happening is that developers talk to estate agents and decide what product will sell and to whom. Nor is it particularly surprising when 3-4 bed houses are built, they generate the biggest profit for builders because they have the same ground area as a 2 bed bung.

As for the collapse of the NHS; Wales' problems stem more from the legacy of heavy and extractive industry in the South than from being overburdened with English retirees. Nevertheless it's nowhere near collapse.

Anonymous said...

Rhodri Glyn Thomas also commented on this issue when the new projection figures came out.

It seems entirely sensible to me to stop building when there is no need for it....

Jac o' the North, said...

Anon 20:57, You "can't get" my blog. Do you mean can't access it, or does it mean you don't understand it? Either way, here's a link -

In your experience elderly people don't vote. That does surprise me. (And makes me wonder where you gain your "experience".) Every survey I've ever read says that the older the age group the more likely people in it are to vote. The problem is with younger people being disengaged.

Thank you for the Nomis link, which tells us that just under 1.7% of the over 65s in England were born in Wales. By comparison, 26.5% of the over 65s in Wales were born in England (and in 6 Welsh council areas the figure is over 40%!) One a drop in the ocean, the other an elephant in the swimming pool. Further, I guarantee that most of the Welsh pensioners in England spent their working lives there, as did most of the elderly English in Wales.

Anon 21:17, If the devolved administration does nothing to curb the encouragement of elderly incomers then it's perfectly reasonable for me to argue that the 'country' - if only by omission - is responsible.

Margaret Thatcher closed most of the coal mines 30 years ago, and the other heavy industries are largely gone, so to blame the state of the Welsh NHS on "the legacy of heavy and extractive industry in the South (sic)" means that you attribute the deteriorating state of the NHS to a problem diminishing year on year while I point out an increasing problem. Seeing as nothing can be done about the former, while the latter can most certainly be tackled, which do you think should be the priority for politicians and health service planners?

Anonymous said...

What a slippery little fellow you are Royston! I'll remind you that you doubted my honesty:-

"Your 'imbalance' figure is unconvincing".

Without a hint of an apology you come back and offer a different take on things...the strain on the NHS argument set aside, you launch into a comparison by relative size. Wales is small England is big; when you consider it that way it's amazing that we have such a small influx of elderly and England has such a large influx.

So, of those Welsh born elderly living in either England or Wales an enormous 27% have gone to England whilst of the 7,576,983 over 65s born in England and living in either England or Wales an insignificant 1.96% have settled in Wales. Are you grateful to England for taking such a large percentage of our elderly?...not a bit of it, you just keep bellyaching about a paltry 1.96%!!

Anonymous said...

Then we have this:-

"In your experience elderly people don't vote...."

What are you trying on Royston? Don't pretend that you didn't understand the context:

"It's true that they won't vote nationalist but from my experience they don't vote at all...quite surprising to me how few bother."

It referred to those elderly coming to Wales and that is my experience where I the sea...surrounded by English retirees and very jolly folk they are.

Then you try to criticise my observation that it is the post industrial legacy of ill-health that burdens the Welsh NHS to a greater extent than an extra 5,615 English over 65s.

The LEGACY is very real and I doubt that the fullest effects have played themselves out...injury and ill health don't cure themselves as ex coal and steel workers get older. The poverty and unemployment in the younger generation leads to hopelessness and depression coupled with a poor lifestyle and diet and more health problems. If you buy into the Tory line (as you clearly do), then the NHS in Wales is getting worse. I don't believe that's beyond doubt, it's actually being vilified by the Tories for their own reasons but we have some real advantages over American management companies ripping us off for a quick profit and no ppI.

If you just want to score points by twisting what posters say you can do that to your heart's content on your own blog (it remains a mystery with just a red stripe and your beguiling visage as far as I'm concerned.)

Jac o' the North, said...

You find me "beguiling" (steady on!), but that hasn't motivated you to find out why you can't access my blog. Now that is strange.

Anonymous said...

all these arguments based on notions of "xenphobia" / welsh versus english/ anti-plaid crap is cosdwollop. You are both pathetic. The point of the matter is this - and its the same here as all over the UK - there are to many larger houses being built, all these exec houses county councils are enamoured with are bollocks, they dont create cheaper more affordable houses for people starting out or downsizing, The artificial inflation of house prices is immoral when people cannot buy house for 3x incomes aS WAS THE NORM. The prices are driven by London prices which is creating sterile ghettos in rural areas as young families cannot afford to live in villages anymore as true for carms and Ceredigion as it is for York dales and cotsowlds. The country is not a bloody theme park for people who can fork out £300k for a flippin cottage with an acre of land. If something radical is not done about changing planning, introducing housing co-ops, freeing up brownthingy areas and introducing innovative sustainable affordable planning in order to create dynamic communities WE ARE ALL F***********. So you can stuff your Welsh versus English bullshit up your arses and that's coming from a Welsh nationalist - who cant stand narrow minded anti english people and anti welsh people ( especially anti- welsh welsh people who are just pathetic)

Anonymous said...

I say...steady on anon 23.22.

I think that you'll find that a rural dwelling with land isn't actually first time buyer fodder. This seems to be part of the problem...the idea that we can look at premium priced property in special, uniquely attractive areas and use those prices to whip up envy and Anglophobia...a tactic used frequently by Nationalists like yourself.

What I'm not entirely sure of is the notion that the migration from rural and seaside areas by young people is as a result of high house prices or low availability of suitable properties....although I'm satisfied that, as you say, appropriate small dwellings aren't being built.

The migration of young people has been driven by the aim of having 50% of school leavers go to further education. In the 1960's the figure was about 6%. This has been the greatest stimulus to migration that Wales has seen since the 1930s and has resulted in rural depopulation amongst the crucial age group who form relationships and build families. Loss of 18-30 year olds means loss of children and schools and amenities for the young. It also leaves a vacuum which is filled by incomers looking to change lifestyle.

It's also noticeable that the young who don't move are (disproportionately) the ones so poorly educated that they can't get into further education...a group destined for no work or low paid work and also a group who never could have bought a property at any price.

Anonymous said...

Can I draw your attention to this campaign for more housing:-

Please sign the petition for more of the right homes, in the right place, at the right price at

Anonymous said...

I think you presume too much that all Welsh Nationalists suffer from anglophobia and envy.
- I am a Plaid Cymru supporter but would not classify myself as suffering from Anglophobia or envy - having had relationships with English people, lived in England, love English culture and value it like I value Spanish culture or French literature being a student of both. Bigots are bigots on both sides of the welsh v english hate-mongering brigade- proud to say I am not one of them and most people are not. And yes people do want land as first time buyers as we live in a rural society where many first time buyers would like to retain their links with agriculture, and develop agribusinesses. We need sensitive, affordable housing not a surplus of tacky urban housing estates in west wales selling at ludicrous prices ... and work to make rural communities sustainable and ensure their future

Jac o' the North, said...

No matter what the size of new properties built in rural and coastal areas of Wales there will remain an inexhaustible supply of buyers for them in England.

To ensure therefore that these properties are accessible to Welsh buyers legislation will be needed. Such legislation will be attacked as 'racist' (while denying Welsh people homes in their own country is not).

Even if that hurdle could be overcome, it would still leave the issue of the existing housing stock, and social housing being allocated to people who had never heard of an area until they were told they were moving there.

The simple fact is that rural and coastal areas of Wales already have more than enough housing to meet foreseeable local demand. All that's needed is mechanisms to ensure that local people have priority for these properties.

This is what would be done by the government of an independent country, or even by a regional government with balls.

But nothing will be done a) because devolution is a charde and b) because the greater part of Wales has been secretly designated a recreation and retirement area for England.

Anonymous said...

"because the greater part of Wales has been secretly designated a recreation and retirement area for England. "

The fingers that have tenuously gripped the very edge of sanity finally slip........

Jac o' the North, said...

If you must convey that kind of image, try, 'The fingernails scratch towards the cliff edge of sanity and, finally free, he plummets, shrieking, into the abyss. From whence there is no redemption but through acceptance of England's dominion over us'.

God almighty! Not only do I have to instruct you in the political realities of modern Wales, I also have to give you lessons in creative writing!

Anonymous said...

My version is more punchy and wastes less of my time on you Roy.

I find your prose overly verbose.

Anonymous said...

Jac you should suggest that there should be 'Welsh Buyers Legislation' to address the issue of English people buying up homes and out pricing locals. How does that deal with the Welsh locals who out price their own communities?

I work with a person who bemoans about the tourists and the English who ruin 'his little village' in the summer months - but who has bought up three cottages to rent out as holiday homes in that very same coastal village! The crazy thing is, is that he is a strong nationalist and often attributes the house price issue on English second home buyers - yet when picked up on the fact he is contributing to the issue he just laughs!

And this situation is replicated widely - the very people who blame the woes of the world on outsiders don't factor in 'the insiders' who often have strong community links and who benefit from knowing when properties are likely to come on the market (say for example following a death) and approach families with cash offers for properties. This isn't speculation either, having grown up - and still having family - in North Ceredigion and the Machynlleth area I know this to be true.

Second homes/holiday homes are so much more of a threat to the communities that people hold so dear and are so much more of a factor in house prices than retirees and the elderly. At least this latter group pay council tax and spend money all year round in their 'host' communities.