The Plaid Cymru group on Wrecsam council has expressed disbelief after the Planning Inspectorate demanded that more than 10,000 new houses be built in the borough.
Wrecsam Council has been preparing a new Local Development Plan over the last two years that sets out development levels in the county up until 2021. After extensive consultation and many objections, the council put forward a plan for 8,000 houses, yet the Cardiff-based Planning Inspectorate that ultimately signs the plan off has now indicated that a further 2,000 be built. The inspector is also looking to reduce the amount of houses that will be affordable for local people.
The formula used by the Welsh Government to calculate future housing demand has proved controversial across the country. Several local councils and local communities across Wales are objecting to plans to flood the country with new houses based on these central projections. The calculations are heavily based on past levels of in-migration from England and do not take into account local need, affordability, social problems or the current economic climate.
Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrecsam have consistently argued that the housing levels planned are way beyond anything needed locally and that councils are being forced to over-develop communities by the Welsh Government.
Councillor Arfon Jones, Gwersyllt West, said: “Although we believe the current housing numbers in the LDP are too high, an additional 2,000 homes will clearly have a hugely detrimental impact locally. For the Planning Inspector to insist on this is completely undemocratic and rides roughshod over the local decision making process.
"There has been consultation with local people during the preparation of the plan, with thousands of locals clearly saying they did not want to see Wrecsam over-developed or for previous high rates of development to continue. The Inspector's demands completely ignore these views and also those of councillors and council officers who feel 10,000 homes are simply not sustainable.”
Plaid councillor Carrie Harper, who represents Queensway ward, has been part of a panel preparing the LDP. She said: “This is the West Cheshire Plan mark 2. Although the original strategy was scrapped due to huge levels of objections locally, they are now looking to force these houses on us through the back door. They are not needed, will not be affordable for the majority of local people and will put huge pressure on our services and infrastructure. The plans will no doubt also have a huge impact on the character and identity of our town.
“We are challenging the Welsh Government over this unsustainable and undemocratic method of planning, a petition is currently lodged with the Government's Petition Committee asking that these plans be recalled and re-thought to make sure they are based on genuine local need. We are perfectly capable of establishing what we need in Wrecsam without centralised interference and outside pressure from faceless civil servants who don’t have a clue about our town.”
Plaid group leader Marc Jones (Whitegate ward) added: “This top-down approach to planning for local communities isn't sustainable or progressive, we must oppose it at every stage. Forcing development on communities rather than allowing organic growth is completely illogical and ultimately very damaging.
"Wrecsam has already been over-developed and the current demands by the Planning Inspector would see the town's population surge by as much as another 26,000. It seems there is no thought of the impact this will have on our environment, road network, local hospitals, schools and other services.
"Local planning officers fear this will mean having to build the 2,000 extra homes on greenfield sites. That's not what the people of Wrecsam want and we will oppose any centrally imposed scheme that ignores local people's wishes. If that means sitting in front of bulldozers, then so be it.
“As a party we will oppose the Inspector's illogical demands. I'm sure Plaid Cymru Assembly Members will also be joining us in challenging the Labour Government in Cardiff over their damaging housing projections for Wales. We need to put the needs of our communities before the demands of housing developers.”