Agenda item

To consider the Local Development Plan Growth and Spatial Options (appendix 3 to follow).


Following a brief introduction from Mark Hand, Craig O’Connor and Rachel Lewis presented the report and delivered the presentation.


Regarding Growth Option 5, stating ‘opportunities for carbon neutral development’ isn’t strong enough in light of the climate emergency – this option should go no further until carbon reduction can be addressed more clearly.

Climate Change needs to be balanced against the housing crisis. Through the LDP, we will be able to build the most sustainable homes ever: sustainable drainage, renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc. In Monmouthshire, we have a huge amount of land that we can build on. We will address Climate Change via our Green Infrastructure policies and introducing renewable energy on homes. If we are to address all of these things then it is with a balanced approach. Welsh Government has a target of 30% of people working from home by 2025-30, which will reduce commuting; the pandemic has shown that this can be done. Looking at our town centres, perhaps we will see hubs whereby people can live and work more locally. So we are looking to address the transport point as well.

Reducing outward commuting and increasing local job opportunities need to be central to plans, along with an increased focus on local (non-meat) food production.

Yes, livestock versus crops is a good point but we wouldn’t have remit of that within the LDP. Agriculture is broadly outside the planning system. But we would have the remit with regards to allotments and community planting – those would be relevant to the plan.

There is concern about the increased pressure on the natural environment. A Green Wedge policy has previously been suggested.

We will do a Green Wedge review and working with colleagues throughout the region to get a methodology together, going alongside the LDP. It is important to note that the Growth and Spatial options are a starting point, with other policies to follow. All of these elements will be looked at, and protecting the landscape is a key part of that.

There is concern about infrastructure. Realistically, a bypass for Chepstow will take at least 10 years, for example.

Yes, Members and officers are concerned about existing infrastructure but this growth will mean financial contributions that will allow some of those services to be sustained in the long term as well. This plan is a starting point, and there will be an infrastructure plan alongside it that will consider how we sustain that level of growth, along with a Local Transport Plan, to ensure we have the right infrastructure to support this level of growth.

If houses are distributed evenly then won’t areas like Raglan, for example, add to the Climate Change problem by residents commuting from there to Bristol or Cardiff?

Affordable housing is needed across the county. The LHMA has indicated that we need this level of housing across the area, and this is key to meeting our objectives.

Spatial Option 1 is more in line with the National Development Framework that argues for town centres first, in terms of development.

This plan will need to comply with the NDF and address those issues. I can’t see why Option 5 wouldn’t comply with it, in terms of its aspiration to deliver affordable housing and ensure we have placemaking and sustainable communities.

We have a lot of land but not all of it is suitable for houses or food production. Agriculture requires a lot of land that can’t necessarily be turned over for building.

We aren’t looking to build everywhere. We have some of the best agricultural land in Wales, with special landscapes attracting tourists. We have to balance growth with meeting our demographic needs, affordable housing needs, infrastructure challenges, and climate emergency. The county is 88,000 hectares. 2018 statistics show that the urban built proportion is 3%, so we would only look to go up to less than 3.5%. It doesn’t mean the infrastructure challenges aren’t there. We have to pick the best spots. We are proposing proportionate growth. Currently, the larger the settlement, the more amenities and transport infrastructure it has – those areas would have the greater proportion of growth. But the larger villages need affordable housing too.

What about the demographic issue, given that young people go to cities as that’s where the jobs are – how will building more houses help with that?

The older population will grow and we need to make sure we have that balance. There was discussion in the workshop of school rolls falling in some places, and the benefits of inward migration for families. If a lot of that migration can be supported in the right locations, and a lot of those people can work from home or locally, then we won’t have those commuting challenges. There are lots of different objectives to align and different pressures on us.

In the last LDP a new settlement/ward was suggested – it could give us what we need.

A new settlement would potentially be a long-term option for the county but Welsh Government has ruled out a new settlement for the LDP so it isn’t an option right now. It could come as part of the Strategic Development Plan for SE Wales but wouldn’t be until at least 2026 – so probably for the next LDP after this one.

Air quality and climate change doesn’t seem to feature enough. Chepstow has worse air quality than Bristol. This needs to be borne in mind for housing development. Adding extra charging points on sites won’t assist with air quality because EVs are currently too expensive for most people and it will increase traffic congestion anyway.

Infrastructure, air quality and the climate emergency are detailed in the lengthy report that sits behind this one. They have been given lengthy consideration. There are aspects that can address growth and some of these issues. EV charging points will make a difference: by 2030 or 2040 there won’t be any new petrol or diesel cars – they will be phased out, and as the technology develops, EVs will become cheaper. Young people are looking more now for a quality of life, so not necessarily moving to the cities.

We have two crises: affordable housing and climate emergency. They are not compatible. Last week, the Burns report said that the M4 relief road will not go ahead but did emphasise the need for further public transport and commuter access, which is very important for the climate emergency. Houses can’t be separated from jobs. We need to provide new jobs in the locality but we now see that a lot more people will work from home than we might have envisaged a few years ago. Infrastructure is so important but we don’t have the ability to provide that first, before the housing. We have to do what we can. If we do nothing, and have a low growth of housing without a demographic change, there will be a huge financial burden on the council. Our requirement for social services will go up, and the number of people to spread that cost will go down. Option 5 and the Spatial Option of 2 are the right thing. Members comments are taken on board, but these are the right options to take forward to Cabinet for the county as a whole.

Plans for Lydney and the larger area are considerable, involving people coming across to Monmouthshire – there will be an implication for housing and infrastructure.

We are working closely with colleagues across the border. The Forest of Dean is doing a new Local Development Framework. Officers O’Brien and Hand recently attended a meeting about the plans for Bristol and its surroundings. We have fed into that. We are also working on transport and infrastructure with them, including via the strategic transport group.

There are unique pressures due to the tolls going. The thousands of houses being built between Lydney and Chepstow add to that. A large campaign group, ‘Transition Chepstow’, has been set up. I am concerned that Cabinet isn’t considering the pressures on our areas fully.

The recommendation is to scrutinise the report and provide comments to Cabinet next week. We recommend Growth Option 5 and Spatial Option 2 but that is a preference at this stage. We will go through the consultation responses (consultation runs 4th January – 1st February), and ask Cabinet to review them. It is unusual for us to state a preference this early but the documents are already public.

Chair’s Summary:

The committee broadly supports the recommendations, but Councillor Brown stated that the concerns about air quality and infrastructure need to be taken into account. She also proposed including green wedges as part of the recommendations, in order for areas to keep their identity, rather than having all of the urban areas (80% are in the south of the county) merge into one. Councillor Groucott reiterated that if climate change is not properly considered then he couldn’t support the options.

Additionally, Councillor Smith suggested that infrastructure plans include consideration of the route to the new hospital, and observed that a recent report showed the large extent to which the wear from tyres contributes to pollution from vehicles. Councillor Harris noted the problem of ‘NIMBYism’ in the county, citing the example of the 10 houses proposed for the national park being turned down and needing to be built elsewhere – but the next location might not work out either, for the same reason.


Supporting documents: