Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Wrecsam's LDP - you win some...

Tonight's planning committee was a bit of a marathon - four hours of debating the local development plan. And we're still not finished. The final decision lies with the executive board and I sense that will also be a long-drawn out affair.

The packed gallery waited patiently to hear about the travellers' camp sites at Chirk and Brymbo. They had to wait three hours for a decision.

Before that, the thorny issue of affordable housing was raised by Plaid councillors.

The first amendment from us was a simple cap on house building above the planned limit - this was a "belt and braces" approach to limit the kind of over-development we've seen in recent years.

This shouldn't have been contentious and officers acknowledged that but it was voted down 14-6.

Our second amendment - to raise the affordable housing threshold from 30% to 50% on housing developments - was opposed by officers. The plan claims it will deliver 2200 affordable homes over 15 years, but it's already fallen behind that target and I think it's based on an over-optimistic set of assumptions.

Claiming 640 homes through a village exemption scheme just doesn't add up - not one has been built under the same scheme in the current plan.

The 30% target was put forward after a consultant's report said 50% affordability was not viable for developers. Funny that it is viable in a number of authorities, including nearby Conwy. The officers couldn't explain why that example had not been studied more fully. After a lengthy debate, the 50% amendment was lost - by just 9-10.

Labour was split 2-2 as were the Lib Dems, and I will await the final decision of the exec board with interest. I just hope those voting against a radical but achievable target never complain about a lack of affordable homes in their wards.

Housing plans for the old Groves site were the next challenge. Local councillor Carole O'Toole called for a more imaginative use of this strategic site and for a mixed scheme that satisfied the existing covenant on education and training, work and some housing as well as protecting the green spaces.

I proposed that the plan include that and, for a change, backed a winner. If we're serious about creating a capital for North Wales here, these key sites have to be used more creatively.

Next up was the travellers' sites - but that's for another post.


lynnehayes said...

Re: The Groves site, I am so glad that Councillors have not forgotten 'green space' issues whilst debating the fate of the Groves site which resides in Maesydre Ward.

At the moment Maesydre ward has a dire shortage of all types of green space, including, playing fields, playing pitches, childrens play parks and informal play areas.
It would be sensible for local people to be able to use some of the existing facilities that exist on the site, currently they stand empty and unused because local people are refused access. This is a great opportunity to give back to the community some of the green space that has been taken from them in the past. Do your best Councillors! lynne Hayes, Save Open Spaces, Wales.

Plaid Whitegate said...

Glad you spotted that Lynne - the amendment I proposed, which Carole and I co-wrote, specifically mentioned green spaces for that reason.