We need leadership to combat speculative housing developments

Plaid AM backs campaign against 600 houses

Plans to build 600 homes on a greenfield site near Caerphilly demonstrate that the Welsh Government is failing to control speculative housing developments.

That’s the view of Plaid Cymru’s shadow planning minister Llyr Gruffydd, who has given his support to opponents of plans by Persimmon to build 600 new homes at Gwern y Domen farm near Caerphilly. The local planning committee is due to discuss the matter on Wednesday.

Caerphilly planning officers are recommending acceptance of the plan because developers argue that there isn’t sufficient housing land available to meet demand in the area. Councils are required to have a five-year housing land supply according to Welsh Government planning guidelines. This was recently ‘disapplied’ by planning minister Lesley Griffiths but campaigners believe that all she has done is passed the buck to local councils.

Mr Gruffydd said: “Throughout Wales, communities have found large-scale housing developments foisted upon them due to the Welsh Government’s failure to deal with the issue of housing land supply. The minister took steps earlier this year to ‘disapply’ the restriction but did not take the matter far enough. It’s still up to councils to decide on a case-by-case basis whether housing land supply is a material consideration. She’s effectively passed the buck rather than take a decisive step on behalf of the Welsh Government.

“She cannot claim ignorance on this matter. In her own constituency, a plan for 365 houses on green fields at Llay near Wrexham was granted planning permission on appeal for this very reason. Ironically, in this case the minister opposed her own government’s guidelines but we’re still seeing large-scale housing developments being put forward by developers looking to exploit this loophole. We need leadership on this matter rather than abdication of responsibility. The minister knows there’s a problem but has chosen to use sleight of hand rather than show firm leadership.

“Developments like Gwern y Domen will have significant impacts on the area’s infrastructure – whether schools, health facilities or roads. Developers don’t care about that but people living in the area will have to live with the consequences. Prioritising brownfield sites is something promoted by the Government’s own Planning Policy Wales as part of its commitment to the Well-being of Future Generations Act but the reality on the ground is very different.

“We desperately need better leadership and I fully support the campaigners fighting this development.”

Mr Gruffydd also pointed out that the Welsh Government’s own strategy to develop economic opportunities in the upper Valleys was being compromised by its lack of a clear leadership on housing here: “There is Welsh Government investment to provide infrastructure that would persuade developers to build housing further up the Valleys, for example at Ty du near Nelson, but that is going to waste because speculative housing closer to Cardiff and in the Caerphilly basin is seen as more profitable for the big builders.”

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