Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Muppet Show

Denbighshire Council didn't cover itself in glory today in approving a fundamentally flawed Local Development Plan that will permit an extra 1715 homes to be built in Bodelwyddan.
This will treble the number of homes in the village alongside the A55 and create a huge commuter estate rather than a community.
Villagers and other campaigners watched proceedings from the gallery of the council and also on a video link to an overspill room. The video link was quickly dubbed "The Muppet Show" by one wag and, as events unfolded, it was clear that there were far too many muppets on show.
Opponents of the LDP were limited to a brief five minutes while the LDP's chief proponent Graham Bowes was granted unlimited time to justify the scheme. His sidekick Angela Loftus was also allowed time to make some fairly ludicrous statements regarding the state of the economy (apparently all will be well in two years "according to the OECD")
Both failed to explain why good quality agricultural land was being used for housing, in contravention of Planning Policy Wales and also why the housing figures exceed the council's own housing market assessment. The lingustic assessment was also ridiculed.
Favourite word of the day was "sustainable" - the development patently is not sustainable but that didn't stop officers and some councillors trying to assert that it was a sustainable "master plan". Rarely has a master plan appeared less masterful.
Bowes also tried to throw critics off the scent by making claims regarding the need for an LDP to be approved immediately - Denbighshire is the first council in Wales to reach this stage and seems to be in something of a hurry to get it approved despite the 650 objections to the Bodelwyddan strategic site, the 94% no vote in the referendum last year and the sustained opposition of the community.
He also made oblique threats to councillors - if you don't approve for Bodelwyddan, then we'll have to build these houses in your wards. None of the councillors present challenged this bullying and some seemed happy to follow his NIMBY lead.
Bowes claimed Bodelwyddan would benefit from a 26 hectare employment site that would create 3000 jobs. Yes, there is a formula that converts the square footage of empty factory units into jobs but that is a far cry from real jobs. There is no strategy for job creation apart from building homes. Experience tells us that the majority of those new homes will be occupied by people who will commute to work down the A55 to Chester and beyond as the work opportunities locally are limited.
Cllr Selwyn Thomas Bobby summed up the mood of many when he said the consultation had rejected this plan. He added that council officers come and go (one sensed a lack of empathy for the needs of the community among all those on the top table today), unlike the people who have to live with their decisions.
Great scepticism was expressed about the so-called pLanning gains that would come from allowing developers free rein in Bodelwyddan. Grand talk of new schools, open spaces, community facilities and the like had all been heard before - they amount to planning bribes to gullible communities and are all too often never delivered.
Persistent questioning by Plaid councillors Rhys Hughes and Cefyn Williams forced Bowes to conflate the Mersey-Dee Alliance with the West Cheshire Plan, which made provision for 20,000 additional homes as part of its strategic "vision" for north-east Wales. This LDP is the creature of that nightmarish vision.
Cllr Gwyneth Kensler also made some telling points, pointing out that land is finite and building on good quality green fields is not sustainable. She pointed out that developers don't like brownfield sites as they are often more expensive to develop than the open countryside.
Despite this opposition, the votes cast were 20-20 with the chairman's casting vote enabling the LDP to go through by the thinnest of margins. The Muppets had their day.
No doubt the inspector who will give this plan the final go ahead will consider that in their assessment of whether the plan has community support.


Cibwr said...

Communities need organic development, spread throughout the authority to meet the housing needs of the local community. As far as I can see developments like this exist only as speculative projects with the intent of attracting people from out of the area.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

What proportion of these homes will be affordable homes?

Plaid Whitegate said...

30% yn dai fforddiadwy

Jac o' the North said...

We all know what "affordable homes" means in practice.

The term is nothing but a ruse to provide social housing and below market value properties for outsiders who can't afford to buy at the going rates.

So let's not be misled by the term "affordable homes", in Bodelwyddan or anywhere else. Until these are reserved for locals the very concept is one big lie.

Anonymous said...

1700 families on a white flight from M'cer and Liverpool

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note that with regards to who get allocated Affordable Housing, Denbighshire County Council also has a local connection policy for Affordable Housing. First preference is given to those that live or work in the Community Council area for 5 years. If no one meets this criteria after a period of time it drops down to 4 years then 3 years. Once this is exhausted then people with 5 years local connection in the surrouhding community council areas (St Asaph, Rhuddlan, Rhyl etc) are offered, then 4 years, 3 years etc. So to claim the Affordable Housing is aimed at "white flight" (see racists) from Liverpool is not really true.

Obviously the other 70% will be open market and available to anyone from anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Wow! 79% will be unaffordable housing. Bloody outrageous. Is the fight now over?