The Welsh countryside has been left wide open to speculative developers due to a failure to act by the Welsh Government.
That's the view of Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, who said the Labour minister in charge of planning had done 'too little, too late' to stop developers building hundreds of houses on greenfield sites.
Planning minister Lesley Griffiths is now consulting on plans to "dis-apply" paragraph 6.2 of TAN 1, a key planning guidance for local councils. This puts particular emphasis on council's providing a five-year Housing Land Supply.
Of the 25 local planning authorities in Wales (22 councils and three national parks) only six have a sufficient supply.
This is what the consultation states:
The monitoring of housing land supply has highlighted a shortfall in deliverable land. As at 1 April 2017 nineteen out of the twenty-five local planning authorities were unable to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, including where LDPs have only recently been adopted. This situation has resulted in an increase in the number of speculative planning applications for housing.
Suspending this particular paragraph in the Technical Advice Note 1 would make it more difficult for large-scale developments to take place in the open countryside. As things stand, the emphasis placed on having a five-year land supply often means developers can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate and Welsh Government to get planning permission, despite the views of local planning committees.
Llyr Gruffydd AM said:
"Councils across Wales have seen speculative housing developments in the open countryside for some years now. The Welsh Government has been made aware of these problems by many communities but chose to support appeals by developers in the face of local democratic decisions and opposition. The minister even opposed one such development in her own constituency, where 365 homes were allowed on appeal in Llay.
"The Government is trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. Thousands of unnecessary houses have been granted permission while ministers dawdled and delayed.
"So, while I welcome the proposed suspension because it will provide greater safeguards for communities, it is too little, too late for many developments."
Mr Gruffydd pointed to a recent Planning Inspectorate decision in Penyffordd, Flintshire, which allowed 186 houses to be built on the outskirts of the village despite local opposition and planning committee rejection.
"If the Labour government had been quicker in recognising the problem, which was apparent to all, then it would have been possible to resist many of these large-scale housing developments. As it is, large swathes of our countryside have been left defenceless."