Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Plaid councillors stand firm against plans for extra 10,000 houses in Wrecsam

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.”


Jac o' the North said...

I think it may be a mistake to confuse the Welsh Government with the Planning Inspectorate. I'm convinced that the latter takes its orders from London.

Plaid Queensway said...

Looking at the make up of the Inspectorate I'd agree, that said there is no doubt that the welsh government seem perfectly happy to allow this to happen, despite objections across the country. I'm aware local councils have also had pressure from Welsh Government officers directly to up the housing figures, as well as pressure from the Planning Inspectorate.

Jac o' the North said...

Which then brings us to the really interesting question - why?

Why does the Welsh Government, forever boasting of the authority it has to improve our lives, allow the Planning Directorate to dictate policy to Welsh LAs while encouring the impression that this agency (plus Housing Directorate and others) answers to the WG?

Is it sheer laziness? Or is the Welsh Government afraid to challenge those controlling the Planning Inspectorate? Worse, does the WG allow the existing situation because it approves of the policies being pursued by these agencies? (Basically, colonisation.)

Plaid Queensway said...

Not forgetting of course that we fund the Planning Inspectorates outpost in Wales, will have to check my figures but I think we pay around £2m per year for this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Good work Plaid Wrecsam. (Ceredigion resident). Pob lwc.

Draig said...

I'll second anon Ceredigion on that. In Swansea we are at an early stage in the LDP process - 50,000 comments have been received from concerned residents across the county.

The LDP is a national issue. Plaid should be co-ordinating nationally to ensure that different areas affected by different stages of the process work together to build a stronger case and share knowledge.

In our area, we are going to turn the Local Elections into a referendum on the process - it should be about development that is appropriate to the needs and scale of our communities.

Anonymous said...

The role of wales is merely to serve the needs of england. Their water their housing their power. Dilute the culture to the point where we are no more than a suburb of whichever english region is closest. WIth labour in power this will only increase, they have absolutely no interest in preserving welsh communities. Better to destroy them and remove any source of national identity or pride. But the people blindly support them like sheep to the slaughter.