Saturday, 23 July 2011

Widening the campaign against unwanted housing developments

Today saw the campaign against unwanted housing developments take a significant step towards becoming a national campaign. Thirty grassroots campaigners from across the North met at Bodelwyddan to discuss how these local campaigns against large-scale housing developments out of all proportion to local need could be coordinated.
There was a widespread consensus that the campaign should be extended nationally as there are examples of the same problem in Carmarthen and Cardiff. That would also stamp out any attempts by the Tories to present this as a parochial "North Wales vs the Assembly", which is what some Conservative AMs want to do.
Jill Evans, Plaid's MEP, was the only senior elected representative present and made a telling contribution about her work with the Bodelwyddan Development Action Group. A petition is currently with the European Parliament regarding the lack of proper consultation - a recurring theme among all those present.
Syd Morgan also gave an important insight into the way planners and developers worked together to set the agenda for local planning through private meetings, excluding local opinion and also local councillors. For some, this was quite a revelation.
Marc Jones spoke of the experience in Brymbo, where initial promises to create 1000 jobs, heritage centre, shops and new transport links as well as a limited number of houses had actually only delivered an ever-increasing number of houses. He emphasised that the campaign had to contrast local need with developers' greed, and that the latter was incompatible with open and transparent decision making.

Pol Wong invited the campaigners to get behind Deffro'r Ddraig as a campaign group that had already successfully fought the West Cheshire-N E Wales sub-regional strategy. This, he argued, was the broad-based campaign that could spearhead the fight against flawed Local Development Plans based on unsustainable housing projections.

Campaigners from Dwygyfylchi, Abergele, Bodelwyddan, Rhyl and Glan Conwy all spoke about their own local campaigns and the basis for a dynamic and intelligent national campaign has been laid. The next stage will be to connect with Assembly Members to put pressure on the Welsh Government, as Plaid's last AM did almost two years ago:

Q2 Janet Ryder: Will the Minister make a statement on the Welsh Assembly Government’s housing targets in north-east Wales? OAQ(3)0990(ESH)

Jane Davidson: The Welsh Assembly Government has not set housing targets for any local authority in Wales. Each local authority is responsible for identifying the required level of housing provision in its local development plan.

Janet Ryder: I am sure that you are aware that Conwy, Denbighshire and Wrexham councils are all at the moment preparing their local development plans. Councillors from each council, to be fair, are saying that their officers have told them that your officers in some cases are dictating an increase of 50 per cent more than the average estimated need for housing in their targets. Councils have estimated their local housing need but your officers are saying, in many cases, that they need at least another 50 per cent on top of that to account for a growth in population. Will you confirm that your officers have not driven that target and that they have no input into the housing needs that will be written into the local development plans?

Jane Davidson: Yes, I can confirm that. It is a new process for councillors who are going through the LDP process, so they are learning to get to grips with it. The statistics unit of the Welsh Assembly Government issued house projections on a unitary authority basis this year—they are not targets for local authorities to meet. However, local authorities were party to the methodology for producing the projections, and they have access to methodology if they wish to undertake more localised modelling. The key issue in terms of the local development plans is the fact that their soundness will be tested by an independent inspector. In order for that soundness to be tested, the independent inspector will look to ensure that all the data available have been used appropriately in the context of the local development plan. The Assembly Government is purely a statutory consultee to check with local authorities that they are using all the data that they should use in the creation of their plan.

2 comments:

Cneifiwr said...

I live in Carmarthenshire which is going through a statutory consultation on the deposit LDP at the moment, although you would not know that if you looked at the council's website or its "newspaper". The proposals are deficient and alarming in so many ways.

It is crucial that we get a national campaign underway, and Plaid is the natural vehicle for doing this. From what I have seen, there is genuine shock and anger from people as they discover what is being planned, but there is no coordination, and the LDP process itself is incredibly complex. The vast amount of documentation is daunting, and the consultation forms will put off all but the most determined.

I have written about the LDP here on my blog (www.cneifiwr-emlyn.blogspot.com), but have only scratched the surface.

I can be contacted by leaving a comment on my blog, and will of course keep all contact details confidential.

Jac o' the North said...

On the one hand this campaign could help revitalise Plaid but on the other hand if no one else gets aboard then it can be dismissed as just Plaid sounding off.

Another point is that this is more than local need versus developers' greed. For while the housebuilding industry obviously benefits it is not the originator of what is probably a co-ordinated strategy for Wales.