Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Wrexham's population is falling - let's rethink our housing plans

Rejecting plans for 130 new homes on greenfield sites in Rossett should be the start of a re-think on our plans to develop Wrexham over the coming decade.

The decision taken by the planning committee on Monday was against officers' recommendation, which argued that the emerging Local Development Plan could be used to allow this scheme to go ahead. This is despite the fact that the Plan is still in draft form and has not been examined in public.

Councillor Marc Jones (Plaid, Grosvenor) argued that the application should be rejected on the grounds of safety, as there were inadequate pathways for walkers, as well as being contrary to the existing Unitary Development Plan.

He argued that the developers wanted the best of both worlds:
"While they are using the emerging LDP as a way to allow this greenfield site development to take place, they are not willing to accept the quota of affordable housing that same plan requires. Instead they are trying to get away with providing 25% in an area desperate for affordable housing."
Cllr Jones added:
"Development on greenfield sites should not be taking place unless there are exceptional circumstances. The LDP threatens a free-for-all from housing developers who are jumping the gun and it's important that councillors reject those pressures."
Cllr Jones said the Plaid Cymru group of councillors would be making representations to the Planning Inspectorate examining the LDP about the falling population in Wrexham and questioning the need for the rapid expansion in housing envisaged in the LDP.

He said:
"In 2013, Wrexham's population was 135,801. In 2017, the latest mid-year estimate that we have, it was down slightly to 135,571. There is no population boom happening in Wrexham and, if anything, EU nationals are departing and our population could continue to shrink or stabilise.  
"Of course new homes are needed as family units become smaller but the LDP was based on Welsh Government projections that the borough's population will rise significantly over the coming decades - initially it was 20% and subsequently downgraded to 10%. It's now clear that even that downgrading overstates the case."
Here is the Welsh Government's own mid-year estimates for population in the borough over the past five years:
2013 135,801
2014 135,953
2015 135,418
2016 135,408
2013 135,571
He concluded: "Our focus needs to be on providing affordable homes for the many people on our waiting lists. The council is, at long last, starting to build a small number of council houses to meet that need and we will be pushing for other pieces of council-owned land to be used productively like this."

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