Housing is devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, so the new approach that Grant Shapps, Coalition Government Housing Minister has announced today only applies to England. But the issue is very much alive in Montgomeryshire. Developers and agents are so totally p****d off with the Powys County Planning Department that they are too angry to speak to me without becoming incoherent and frothing at the mouth. I will need to reinforce the walls of nmy new office in Newtown. They tell me that the Council has as its mission a desire to frustrate and refuse as many applications to develop as possible, and to load massive costs on those applications it does approve. They also tell me that the Planning Authority has an 'affordable housing' policy that does not deliver any affordable housing - as in no affordable housing at all. This anger and frustration is not new. I've raised it with the Council's Chief Executive before - but I'm told that nothing has changed. Developers remain incandescent with anger, fuelled they tell me by delay and unreasonableness.
Anyway back to Grant Shapps. He has announced that he's intending to scrap all sorts of new proposals which would have put thousands on the cost of building a house, and an overhaul of complicated building standards. He reckons this will reduce the cost of each housing unit by £8,000. The Housing Minister believes that much of the information demanded of developers is unnecessary 'gold plating' which serves no real purpose - except to make the development unviable. This would have quite an impact in England.
I wonder what this will impact in Wales. Already I have developers contacting me to say that some higher standards in Wales are leading them to limit their work to England. In Powys we have some agents who charge a higher fee in Wales because of the extra difficulties they have with the Planning Dep't. Last week, one couple who had bought their dream house in Montgomeryshire came to see me in despair. They wish they had never moved in, and they are telling their friends to steer well clear of Montgomeryshire - because of the Council's Planning Department. I daresay the first reaction of the Planners will be to ahve a 'go' at me - 'shoot the messenger'. But I am just saying it as my constituents say it to me, not how it looks from the planner's desk. I fully expect this issue to flare up big-time over the next year or so - as people without houses and builders without work become increasingly angry.