Sunday, November 28, 2010

Planning in Powys.

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.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to disagree with you Glyn, but the fact that Powys Planning are refusing housing developments is a GOOD thing. I am opposed to the Telfordisation of Mid-Wales, covering the land in bland housing estates and empty industrial parks.

Royston Jones said...

Roman Jones Esq.(!) is right about 'Telfordisation' but the whole housing system in rural Wales, private and social, is in a mess.

We are still building houses that locals can't afford to buy; 'affordable' homes are nothing of the sort; second homes still proliferate; while housing associations build properties for which locals don't qualify.

We need a new strategy that puts the interests of locals first and by so doing we shall protect both our identity and our beautiful countryside.

It can be done with the application of a single, easy to understand principle: local needs, and only local needs, determines the numbers of new properties being built, both private and social and also influences the number of multi-occupancy dwelling allowed.

Anonymous said...

What I struggle to grasp about affordable homes is that IF they are designed to get first time local buyers onto the housing market, then when these affordable homes are to be resold by their owners it would have to be at the going market value so that they can trade up to higher levels on the property ladder.

That will remove this stock of housing from being affordable. That will necessitate building more affordable homes for the next batch of local first time buyers, and so on until the whole of rural Wales and England is covered in formerly affordable housing. The alternative is to force these owner to only sell as a discounted level to other local needs people, which in effect will ghettoise these local buyers for eternity.

It is not an easy solution, but I do feel more focus should be on smaller families, more house sharing (esp with family) and a greater emphasis on boosting skills so that local businesses can pay better wages. Turn Powys into a technology hub, a low-density silicon valley of professionals - but without the concrete office blocks.

Dave Edwards said...

It is not only in Powys that the Planning rules are driving people away. Here in Pembrokeshire the National Park are going to impose a £30,000 contribution from people who wish to build a house for themselves if it is not "affordable". clearly this will have to recouped from the purchaser and so the prices in the National Park will be pushed further from the reach of local families.

Anonymous said...

developers are always saying that it is easier for them over the border, perhaps it's a scare story to try and pressure us into giving them want they want i.e. ugly housing estates throughout Montgomeryshire. Give us some actual statistics rather than some stories based on individual cases when people turn to you when they don't get what they want.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the developers and agents simply need to raise their game with their designs and quality of planning submissions.

Anonymous said...

There's an interesting take on your comments about planning in Montgomeryshire on midwalesplanning blog. Interesting insider information I suspect. Is it an active Powys councillor or planning official do you think?

Anonymous said...

Its not about designs and quality of planning submissions, its about inconsistency, incompetence, a lack of common sense and ludicrous interpretation of guides. For example; To you or I 1-1=0, but it took powys planners 8 weeks to agree this on point, literally arguing that if you take one house away, add another in its place the change in number of dwellings is not NONE - no alternative number offered by the way!

Record keeping is a joke and a few officers aside there are enough prats not capable of decision making to say that they collectively are genuinely not fit for purpose. (This is seven years experience dealing with PP trying to get infill in a town - nothing controversial - outline application).