Agenda and minutes

Economy and Development Select Committee - Thursday, 15th July, 2021 10.00 am

Venue: County Hall, Usk with Remote Attendance


No. Item


Declarations of Interest.


Councillor Howard declared a non-prejudicial interest as a member of Abergavenny Civic Society. He was not involved in the representation in Item 3.



Public Open Forum.

Select Committee Public Open Forum ~ Guidance


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The Council’s Preferred Strategy is not significantly different from that which the Council preferred in an Options consultation earlier this year. The views of many who questioned whether the planned level of growth will lead to ‘sustainable and resilient’ communities have been overruled.

More importantly, we have not been told whether the Welsh Government accepts the Council’s opinion that their growth strategy conforms with the Government’s Future Wales national plan, as required by statute. We know from Government officials’ previous comments that there was concern that the Council’s growth ambitions would not comply with the then draft national plan.

The Abergavenny Civic Society and other community groups do not believe that the Preferred Strategy does conform – that the growth goes well beyond Future Wales’ expectations for supporting rural communities.  

To avoid later conflict and delay, should not the Council seek to clarify this uncertainty NOW, perhaps with agreement of a provisional band of compromise to be given precision later in the process that will lead to the adoption of a new plan?


Dick Cole

Vice Chair, Abergavenny and District Civic Society


Mark Hand gave the following response:

On 18th July 2019, we received a letter from Welsh Government in response to the previous options. We didn’t have a response at the start of this year when we consulted on the growth options again, following the data review. I’m not sure what the Civic Society is referring to – we haven’t had any written response from Welsh Government that has commented on our growth level. The July 2019 response raised concerns about two of the growth options, for the specific reason that they included new settlements, which the national planning policy at the time discouraged, but didn’t prohibit – we had proposed the potential for new settlements via two of the four growth options. That therefore changed when we consulted on new growth options in January/February. There was no comment from Welsh Government in that letter about the level of growth, nor that there was any problem with our direction of travel when we met with them subsequently to informally discuss how our LDP needs to comply with Future Wales 2040. We understand that we aren’t in a regional growth area in FW 2040 but policies 4 and 5 of that make it very clear that we can and should meet our growth aspirations in the county e.g. for affordable housing and age-balanced communities. This is set out in Appendix 4. Therefore, we don’t believe there is a problem, and haven’t received any correspondence from Welsh Government to say that our growth level is out of kilter with Future Wales 2040. If the Civic Society has received something though, we would be happy to view it and then discuss it further.



Local Development Plan - Scrutiny of the Preferred Strategy. pdf icon PDF 307 KB

Additional documents:


Craig O’Connor and Mark Hand presented the report and answered the members’ questions.


Jez: What are we doing to bring the sort of house builders we want to the county? Do we have preferential treatment for those building the sort of houses that we want, or plans to make our county more attractive to them?

This is a very good point. There are several aspects to it. One is the detailed policies that will be in the deposit plan that will set out what’s required. With private land, we can’t control whom they might be engaging with but we could try to make some of those contacts and connections. We have met with Zero Homes to understand what they are doing in Tonypandy and Cardiff. Councillor Becker has highlighted to us several companies that do housing in a different way, which we would like to pursue further. If the planning authority allocates any council land in the plan, then the council – as landowner – can consider whom it partners with or sells land to, to bring forward something that meets our wider aspirations. How we go about making connections could do with further discussion.

Our climate change note seeks to go higher than Welsh Government’s current target, so order to raise the bar for the climate change agenda and low carbon, it isn’t just a case of looking to sustainable housebuilders but also of pushing the ‘big five’ on sustainable homes. This is what we seek as part of the LDP.

Average house prices are surely high because we have a large number of larger houses, compared with other counties. The cost of new houses across various neighbouring counties seem to be equivalent with Monmouthshire. Is the notion of particularly high prices in Monmouthshire therefore flawed?

We don’t suggest that if more houses are built then the prices will fall. However, if we have a very low level of growth it will force prices up, because there is demand and the supply will then be stripped. Most importantly, we would then deliver very little affordable housing, when we know that we have 2000 homes on our waiting list. This then links into demography. With affordability, the housing mix policy is key to control the footprint of the property. Ensuring we have the right proportion of smaller properties will have an effect on affordability, as it will offer choice to the citizens.

The presentation mentions that we hope to create 7,215 jobs. Who are they for? We have very little control over employment levers.

We certainly don’t hold all the levers regarding where people can live and work. The RLDP is a land use document, so we need to ensure that we have the employment land/commercial space in the right location. This entails having conversations with indigenous businesses and those that want to come into Monmouthshire, and providing opportunities for our citizens by having the right land allocated in the right place. In terms of home working, Covid has  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Performance Monitoring - Report on the performance against the five goals. pdf icon PDF 959 KB


Emma Davies presented the report. Frances O’Brien, Mark Hand and Cath Fallon answered the members’ questions.


Where have the most and least progress been, and in the latter case, what will you do to get it back on track?

This is hard to answer, given the spectrum of priorities and actions. Taking the effect of Covid into consideration, the department has made significant progress where possible, across the objectives that are set. For example, the progress made with procurement, which has been rapid in a short period, despite the impact of Covid.

Are there specific areas in which there is difficulty making progress, from reasons other than Covid?

From an Enterprise and Community Animation perspective, there are two main areas to consider. One is broadband redeployment, which has slowed further than we had hoped. We were successful in obtaining funding through Welsh Government’s local broadband fund to undertake works in the Llanthony valley, for example. There are issues there generally, aside from the effect of Covid. Through our Strategic Broadband Infrastructure group, we are looking to address works to lay cables etc. We are also deploying a wider network that is 5G carrier grade – again, that has not moved as fast we had hoped. Therefore, the digital depravation rates are likely to be less than the 12.5% currently in the report; we are awaiting the accurate figure. We are also addressing the distinct lack of skills and increase in vacancy rates, relating to our hospitality industry: as hospitality has reopened, there is a desperate need for staff but they aren’t coming forward, or they’re finding it a challenging area in which to work, and moving on. We have a major campaign over the summer period, with the Deputy Leader, to encourage people to come forward. Our Employment Skills team will help people to write CVs and submit applications. Many of those issues were raised in our Business Resilience forum, which enables us to understand the issues that businesses are facing on a daily basis.

A few other items are worth mentioning. For example, the report cites the Chepstow study: this has now been received, and we have arranged a meeting with Chepstow members and stakeholders across the border to brief them on it. This has also been delayed somewhat but is progressing. There is a current suspension from Welsh Government in road building so we will think through how that might affect things. Improvements and re-surfacing in the Highways programme were delayed, but that was due to funding uncertainty: until we had confirmation that floods relief funding to reinstate roads damaged in the 19/20 floods would be carried forward into this financial year, we didn’t know our budget for normal road repairs. That confirmation came a few months ago, so we can no roll this out. The replacement local development plan was affected by Covid and the new population projections from Welsh Government, but it gave us the opportunity to refresh our view of the plan’s elements.

On  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Scrutiny of the Revenue and Capital Outturn reports for 2020-2021. pdf icon PDF 705 KB

Additional documents:


Dave Loder presented the report and answered the members’ questions.


We have a commercial and corporate landlord services underspend of £852k. As we don’t have any available commercial accommodation currently, could that shortfall be spent on making shovel-ready accommodation for businesses to move into the county?

Unfortunately, this is a service-specific query and can’t be answered today. I will have to check this particular figure, and will go back to the relevant officers for comment and a subsequent response.

There is a shortfall of £22k in Estates, due to staff shortages. We have a significant issue in shifting our commercial property, currently lying idle. If they were utilised more profitably, would the underspend be more significant i.e. we could get revenue from those unoccupied units?

Answer as above.



Economy and Development Select Committee Forward Work Plan. pdf icon PDF 608 KB


Special committee on 26th July regarding town centre regeneration.



Council and Cabinet Work Planner. pdf icon PDF 170 KB


To confirm the minutes of the previous meeting. pdf icon PDF 608 KB


The minutes were confirmed and signed as an accurate record, confirmed by Councillor Jordan and seconded by Councillor Roden.



To confirm the date and time of the next meeting: Thursday 16th September 2021 at 10.00am.