Thursday, 9 February 2012

Which fields will you concrete over for new homes, Ken?

Labour AM 'out of touch' as he backs 12,000 new homes for Wrecsam

A Labour politician has been challenged to name the green fields on which he wants new housing built.

The Plaid Cymru group on Wrecsam council have hit back at a statement from Labour AM Ken Skates supporting thousands of extra homes for the county, claiming the Labour party is out of touch with local people.

The Labour AM made a statement supporting plans for an extra 10,000 general market houses in Wrecsam. He mistakenly claimed the houses would be affordable for local people.

Plaid Councillor Carrie Harper said:

“It really is surprising that an Assembly Member is so poorly informed about the current situation with Local Development Plans for the area he is supposed to represent. Far from being ‘affordable’ for local people, as Mr Skates suggests, the vast majority of the new houses planned will be general market houses built by private developers.

"In addition to that, the Planning Inspector is also demanding that Wrecsam reduce the amount of affordable housing that should be provided, which wasn't much to start with. Given that local people would need to secure a deposit of at least £20,000 in order to get a mortgage, it clear that these houses will not be affordable and nor are they intended to provide for the local population. Mr Skates would know this if he had taken the time to research the average local wage."

The statement from Plaid comes in the wake of a letter published by the Planning Inspectorate today that is now demanding nearly 12,000 general market houses be built in the town. The letter also insists the council expand its settlement boundaries and build houses on green fields.

Plaid Councillor Arfon Jones added:

“The extra houses now being demanded by the Planning Inspector will have to be accommodated on open green space. I wonder which fields in Wrecsam Mr Skates would suggest they go on?”

Plaid Cymru remain steadfast in their opposition to the plans and have vowed to challenge both Labour and the Planning Inspectorate.

Leader of the Plaid group in Wrecsam, Cllr Marc Jones said:

“I would be interested to know if either the Labour party or the Planning Inspector have considered the impact such a huge population increase will have on Wrecsam? The latest demands for 12,000 houses could see the town’s population boom by almost 30,000. Additionally, there are no plans to provide the infrastructure improvements needed to support such an increase, only plans to build the houses. Who is providing the extra hospital, extra schools and road network improvements that will be essential?

“Quite simply, these plans cannot be allowed to go ahead, they will damage the town and surrounding area beyond recognition. We also need to be clear that the houses planned are not going to be affordable or accessible for the vast majority of local people. The impact of a further 12,000 general market houses in Wrecsam will be catastrophic, with the merging of villages and the disappearance of our green fields. It is beyond me how Labour can possibly think this is a good idea, let alone be backing it. It’s time they stopped pandering to the developers and started defending our communities. Plaid Cymru will fight these plans every step of the way."

NOTE from Lawrence Isted, Head of Community Wellbeing and Development, Wrexham County Borough Council

Overall the Inspector's conclusions are that, on the evidence, the plan is unsound as it does not meet the identified need for general housing and affordable housing and that it cannot do so without changing the LDP strategy to allow the allocation of green field sites outside of settlement boundaries. He refers to the established need for housing being 11,786 which would require 3721 houses to be allocated above the 8065 presently proposed in the LDP.

A report is being prepared for the Planning Policy Panel to be held on Wednesday 15 February, 2012 setting out the options open to the Council.


Anonymous said...

Impartial Planning Inspector surrounded by Developers, this is a load of bollocks.

Draig said...

A question: Has the LDP process in Wrexham been subjected to Strategic Environmental Assessment(SEA)?

Anonymous said...

This an example of the Labour Party standing up for Wales!

Anonymous said...

"Plaid Councillor Arfon Jones added:

“The extra houses now being demanded by the Planning Inspector will have to be accommodated on open green space. I wonder which fields in Wrecsam Mr Skates would suggest they go on?"

And yet Cllr Jones is one of the main proponents of the welsh medium school development in Gwersyllt, similarly to be built on green space.

Dual-standards abound.

Anonymous said...

You see, when Wrexham council decides that settlement boundaries can be "stretched" for one purpose, can councillors really be surprised when the Planning Inspector says "Well, if they can afford to lose this green space, we can take that green space and they can't really argue"?

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Wrong again Phil, the site of the Welsh School was in fact an old quarry and therefore a brown-field site. Need to do some background!

Anonymous said...

It's green. It's space. Therefore it's green space. Whether it's classified as greenfield or brownfield is irrelevant to this discussion. It's still a playing field.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

There is a definition of Public Open Spaces, this did not fit the definition. Had it been a POS it would not have been granted outline planning consent, so it is relevant.

Anonymous said...

That's utter cobblers Arfon. Planning would have been granted regardless. Frankly, WCBC would have uprooted ancient woodlands, relocated burial grounds, moved Hope mountain and euthanised the entire population of their grannies old folks home to push this school through. Don't tell me they'd have let a little definition get in the way.

Plaid Whitegate said...

This is a story about 12,000 homes not building new schools. Attempts to derail this by resurrecting the debate about the new school in Gwersyllt aren't really going to lead us anywhere new.

Anonymous said...

It's not really about resurrecting the debate, more about drawing parallels and highlighting the perils in allowing development outside of settlement boundaries, which is bound to lead to further development outside of these boundaries.

This was foreseen by opponents of the Delamere Avenue development who said "If we allow this development on green space to happen, where does it end?"

The argument was poo-poohed by Plaid Councillors at the time.

Perhaps they'll accept that it was a valid concern now?

Plaid Whitegate said...

Fair point, but I don't accept the parallel for two reasons. Because the school's playing fields will be accessible to the public outside school hours and because there will be marked playing fields it will arguably enhance the playing field provision in the Gwersyllt community, which is one of the very few in Wrecsam that has a surplus according to the definitions used for these matters.
Secondly, this is for a school that will be of benefit to the community and meets the needs of that community.
By contrast, allowing large commuter estates outside settlement boundaries will do nothing to enhance communities and will worsen the pressure on infrastructure (e.g. schools, roads).
In terms of flexibility, Wrecsam's Draft LDP did have flexibility to allow small scale out of settlement development but only for affordable housing, so there was already an element of stretching boundaries for a specific reason. The inspector's decision, if upheld, will make it far more likely that executive housing estates are built in the countryside to maximise developers' profits.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that the development will not help the community. However, whilst you do not accept the parallel (possibly for perfectly valid reasons) can you not see how the Planning Inspectorate have drawn their conclusions?

The point remains that if we fail to protect ALL green space (regardless of how that space is 'defined' or whether there's a surplus) then we leave ourselves open to over-development of the remaining green space.

That's exactly the point that opponents of the school development were making a year or more ago.

WCBC is now reaping what it has sown.

Plaid Whitegate said...

The Planning Inspector made it clear that he was basing his justification for upping the numbers of housing for two main reasons -
1. The need to hit population projections arbitrarily imposed by the Welsh Government
2. The arguments of housing developers who prefer to build on green fields because they're less expensive to develop than brownfield sites.

Had he said that he was advocating building on greenfield sites because the council had undermined its own position, you might have a point, but he didn't.

The opponents of the school did so for many different reasons - some were reasonable, many weren't as we've seen in the numerous discussions on this blog. The lack of opposition to the school development from green field campaigners confirms that this is something of a red herring.