Wednesday, 1 April 2015

So how many houses does Wrecsam need?

Every local council has to produce a Local Development Plan to provide a framework for the area in terms of allocating land for housing, industry, leisure etc.
 Wrecsam Council had its LDP rejected by the Welsh Government on the basis that it didn't provide enough housing between now and 2028. The Welsh Government has based housing numbers on a population projection that would see the county borough's population rise 22% by 2035 - a leap that would be unprecedented and is not mirrored in any other council area in North Wales.
 It is, quite simply, a finger in the air exercise with no scientific basis. Even if there was a logic to it, it is not a desirable outcome to see such a rapid growth in the town's population when we know that the existing infrastructure - health, education, transport and public services - are already creaking.
 The original LDP allocated land for about 8,000 new homes - a significant growth but one that was felt to be manageable and organic as the growth was spread throughout the villages and towns.

 The council is now consulting on LDP2, which generously offers three options based on Welsh Minister Carl Sargeant's population projections:

1. 13,010 new homes
2. 11,030 new homes
3. 10,100 new homes

And that's it.
 This is not a grassroots consultation to assess how many homes are needed in, say, Coedpoeth or Marchwiel in the coming 15 years. The numbers involved mean that large-scale new villages or commuter estates will be created along the A483 corridor - effectively creating an urban sprawl from Gresford to Ruabon. We've already seen developers apply for hundreds of houses at Llay and Rhosrobin, with planning permission for 319 homes granted on Monday for Ruabon. This is just the start of a process that could see huge swathes of green barrier Tarmaced in the name of progress.

 These large-scale sites do not deliver affordable homes - they are designed for commuters to get onto the A483 as quickly as possible. Now any fool knows that the A483 has already reached capacity further along at the Posthouse roundabout and no amount of rejigging there is going to end the chaos soon. Planners don't seem to do joined-up thinking because these housing developments are not connected with industry or jobs.
Any serious plan in this day and age needs to be looking at reducing carbon footprints, reducing travel by car and creating employment opportunities within communities. 

But the madness of the plan is only really exposed when you look at the amount of houses that would have to be built every year from now until 2028.

If the lowest target is approved, you're talking about 710 homes every year.
The middle target inreases that to 770 houses a year.
The highest target would mean an eye-watering 910 homes a year being built.

To put that into context, last year 215 homes were built and over the past 10 years it's been an average of 426 - that includes the massive housing boom. At its height, the boom in 2006-7 saw 945 homes built.

Council planners, under threat from a Labour Welsh Government that knows nothing and cares less about communities, are trying to railroad through a plan that can't work. What it will do though is open the floodgates for many speculative housing developments that will see more commuter estates created around the borough, putting more and more pressure on schools and health services as well as clogging up our roads.

• As an aside, the draft LDP has a "vision" that can only have been written by someone with a loose grip on reality (as well as the English language). The LDP's proposed vision states: "By 2028, Wrexham will be a place where people can live active, healthy and independent lives; our economy will be strong, resilient and responsive to our strategic location within North East Wales and in close proximity to the North West of England. Wrexham will be a place where everyone feels safe and included, which reduces inequalities and a place that positively responds to the quality and distinctiveness of our natural, built heritage and culture assets"

 The only surprise is that the work "sustainable" wasn't included, as it's almost compulsory for council officers to include it somewhere. Perhaps someone belatedly realised that the entire document isn't sustainable and will not leave communities stronger or safer.


Jac o' the North, said...

The 'justification' for this LDP can either be regarded as self-fulfilling or just arse-backwards.

The increase in population will follow the building of the houses. Which obviously invalidates the fundamental premiss that the housing is needed to meet an increase in population.

And I wouldn't be too hard on the 'Welsh' Government, those clowns are just doing what they've been told by the Planning Inspectorate, which answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.

Blodwen said...

Apart from the details about the road, this could have been written about Carmarthenshire. Same use of dodgy statistics to support future housing "needs", same ignoring of infrastructure problems, same lack of joined-up thinking.