Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Plaid AM challenges Welsh Government over plans to build housing on greenfield sites

Plans for 365 houses on green fields near Llay 
‘Wildly inaccurate’ population projections under fire

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has raised concerns about the way councils are being forced to permit more housing developments by the Welsh Government based on “wildly inaccurate” population projections.

Mr Gruffydd raised the matter of Local Development Plans in questions to the cabinet secretary responsible for planning Lesley Griffiths, the Wrexham AM. He pointed out that: 
“the mid-year population estimates are showing clearly that the projections that have been used as a basis for many of these local development plans are clearly incorrect. In Wrexham's case, the population projection back in 2014 was for an increase of around 1,200 people in population by mid 2016.
"We now find, of course, that the increase has actually been four - not 4% but just four people. Now, clearly, that basis is fundamentally flawed in relation to the LDPs that we do have. They're wildly inaccurate, but they still remain the basis for the LDPs that have been reviewed or that are currently in place.
“Will you agree with me that this inherent flaw in the LDPs is leading to an overestimation in terms of population, which in turn means that there will be more and largely unnecessary developments in terms of greenfield areas, in places, for example, where you yourself have opposed such schemes, in places such as Llay, in the past?”
 Ms Griffiths responded by saying it was unfortunate Wrexham council did not have an LDP in place but was challenged further on the matter in relation to Flintshire and Conwy councils.

Mr Gruffydd added: 
“There’s a deep inconsistency here. On the one hand, the cabinet secretary says she wants development to be based on a robust plan but the Labour Government has already forced three of the six north Wales councils to amend or re-write their LDPs because they don’t provide for enough housing. The rationale for increasing the number of houses were the Government’s own population projections, which have proven to be wildly inaccurate when measured against the reality.

“Welsh communities need a planning system that works for them rather than a Labour Government that bases plans on flawed figures that effectively allow developers a free rein when it comes to building on greenfield sites. The cabinet secretary was vocal enough when it came to plans to build 365 houses on green fields near Llay in her own constituency so let’s see some consistency.”
 
Transcript of questions by Llyr Gruffydd to Lesley Griffiths

Llyr Gruffydd AM
Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on local development plans in North Wales? OAQ51551

Diolch. There are five adopted local development plans in north Wales, with Wrexham County Borough Council and Flintshire County Council expected to adopt their plans by 2020. Conwy County Borough Council and Denbighshire County Council are due to commence a review of their respective LDPs, and I've recently invited them to prepare a joint plan instead.78

The mid-year population estimates are showing clearly that the projections that have been used as a basis for many of these local development plans are clearly incorrect. In Wrexham's case, the population projection back in 2014 was for an increase of around 1,200 people in population by mid 2016. We now find, of course, that the increase has actually been four—not 4 per cent; four people. Now, clearly, that basis is fundamentally flawed in relation to the LDPs that we do have. They're wildly inaccurate, but they still remain the basis for the LDPs that have been reviewed or that are currently in place. So, will you agree with me that this inherent flaw in the LDPs is leading to an overestimation in terms of population, which in turn means that there will be more and largely unnecessary developments in terms of greenfield areas, in places, for example, where you yourself have opposed such schemes, in places such as Llay, in the past?

I am absolutely committed to a plan-led approach to development across Wales. I think it's really important that local authorities bring forward their LDPs. It's unfortunate - and you mention my own constituency of Wrexham in particular—it's very unfortunate that they haven't had an LDP in place. I wouldn't say they're flawed. I think the difficulty around LDPs is that they have to be constantly under review, and I think, going forward, we need to move away from LDPs and have more strategic development plans. Certainly, that's the work that's ongoing. My chief planning officer is currently going round Wales meeting with all local authorities, but I think we need to have those plans in place to make sure that we have the decision making, but of course the information needs to be correct, so that the decision making then is as appropriate as possible.

In October, the leader of Conwy council wrote to you stating that the Welsh Government's removal of the past building rate methodology from the calculation of land supply process had significantly undermined local development plans across Wales, rendering councils unable to defend speculative development applications that put the wrong houses in the wrong places. The only reason Wrexham doesn't have an LDP is because they'd nearly completed their LDP, but the Welsh Government told them to start again because they didn't have enough houses, and we've just heard from my colleague across the Chamber what resulted from that.
In December, you wrote to me saying that the underlying cause of Flintshire's exposure to speculative planning applications was their failure to adopt an LDP, and adding, you said that Flintshire is one of the few local planning authorities in Wales still to adopt an LDP and is likely to be the last authority to do so. So, which is the problem? Is it the failure by county councils to produce LDPs or does Conwy council have a point?
 14:10

It's really important that local planning authorities have their five-year land supply and you referred to a letter I sent you before Christmas. The problem is when they don't have those five-year land supplies, we see developers coming in with very speculative applications. So, I think it's really important and I don't want to talk about specific plans because, obviously, our powers in the development process means that I can't. But I think, looking at it on a case-by-case way, when a Member writes to me, I respond in that way. So, if I wrote to you about Conwy, that's what I stand by; if I wrote to you about Flintshire, that's what I stand by, also.



1 comment:

TheStone said...

We fought their mad housing plans in Cardiff up to the last(May 17) elections. The Labour Government want to build 320,000 houses, enough for a million people, in a country of three million people.
These deranged plans are the product of the Planning Inspectorate who are run by the London Ministry of Local Government. Figures for population growth in Wales are done by them on the back of a fag packet using London figures. we need an independent Welsh Government running this country.