Local Development Plan (LDP) annual monitoring report - To scrutinise the annual monitoring report for the current adopted LDP prior to submitting to Welsh Government.
- Meeting of Joint Scrutiny Meeting - Performance and Overview and People Scrutiny Committees, Joint Select Committee, Tuesday, 11th October, 2022 9.30 am (Item 9.)
Councillor Paul Griffiths, Cabinet Member presented the report and answered questions, together with Mark Hand and Craig O’Connor.
· The shortfall in actual housing and affordable housing in particular is a key concern and the plan will be for significant growth, so please can you comment on the potential for different construction methods, such as pre-fabricated houses and timber frame houses, to make faster progress?
One thing to note before answering the question is that the replacement Local Development Plan runs from 2018-2033, so what is coming through the system now, is counting towards our newly identified housing need. We have a desire to move at a faster pace, but large strategic sites can take some time to come forward, so we need to secure some smaller easy wins that can come forward quicker. Methods of construction is not something we can greatly influence as this is more ‘a land use’ document so, those are things for site developers to consider, although homes will need to meet the zero carbon and other required criteria. As part of the plan, we have to show trajectories of delivery and show how the new housing number will be delivered in the new plan. We are working with developers to put master planning in place so that by the time we are at the point of our plan being examined, we are ready to go, thus avoiding a time lag. So in conclusion, there are a range of things we can do to expedite delivery.
· What is the definition of affordable housing, low-cost housing and what is an allocated site?
This means a site allocated within the exiting LDP. Six of the seven residential sites have already got planning permission, it’s just that there’s just a time lag for construction. There are number of sites coming forward that are currently under development. The aim is to ensure sites meet the active travel requirements and are sustainable sites. We use Welsh Government’s Technical advice note 2 for the definition of affordable housing, which means ‘affordable in perpetuity’, but I will forward the definition of affordable housing and low-cost housing to the committee (Action: Craig O’Connor/Mark Hand).
· What is an unallocated site?
We have to review the appropriateness of sites that come forward in line with policy, so we are not looking to support unallocated sites that don’t meet the criteria.
· The affordable housing delivery figures do raise concern, given that only 35 affordable houses were completed during this monitoring period, plus the ones not delivered in the 10-year plan. How do we compare with neighbouring authorities? Also, in terms of completed dwellings, Chepstow accounted for 90 completed units, but Monmouth only 3. In the report, you state that there isn’t a significant issue with the implementation of the plan’s spatial strategy in relation to the delivery of new housing in the main towns, so please can you explain how you came to that conclusion?
In terms of comparison with neighbouring authorities, we are all completing our annual monitoring reports at the same time, the end of October being the deadline to submit them, so I’m afraid that at this point, we don’t have any information on how others are faring. In respect of your question around completions, there are a few things taking place at the moment. Generally, in terms of our plan’s performance, it has done very well, with sites being completed. Our big issue at the moment is the difference between the number of completions in Chepstow versus Monmouth, due to one area being affected by phosphates and the other not being affected. This issue means that drawing comparison with neighbouring authorities is not helpful because Torfaen and Newport are not affected by phosphates in the same way as the north of our county, which is affected due to the non-tidal reach. We will reflect on the wording of the report in terms of whether the spatial strategy has been achieved. We measure the proportion of properties in different settlement hierarchies that are completed in the main towns, so against the plan’s intention, we feel completions are being achieved, but it is possibly helped by the fact most of the site at Wonastow Road, Monmouth was completed before phosphates became a problem.
· Is it possible to prioritise the affordable houses in a scheme, as in to build them first before the market housing?
Not really, because housing developments tend to be built in phases, to ensure the infrastructure is in place and is ready. We have a ‘pepper potting’ approach in place so that properties are not distinguishable as affordable or market housing, so when developments take place, there is a balance in the delivery of market and affordable housing. That said, to reassure you that we do ensure the affordable housing is delivered, we have trigger points in our contracts with developers in which we discuss the progress of delivery.
· I am concerned about Monmouth town’s vacant shops, the vacancy rate having gone from 10% to 15.5%, so if we haven’t got the housing or the jobs, I’m concerned about how many young people will be attracted to stay and work in the area and that there may be a decline of the economy. Do you have any timescale for when we will have a decision from Welsh Government on our bid for Levelling Up Funding and if we are not successful, do we have an alternative plan?
In terms of town centre vacancies, outside of this process is the regeneration work that is ongoing. We have met with Monmouth Town Council to seek their agreement to co-produce a masterplan for the town, having been identified in a report to Cabinet in July 2022 as a key priority. From a planning perspective, our town centres have changed significantly since this plan was produced in 2011 and adopted in 2014. Considerations will include whether the central areas should be contracted and whether they should encompass more mixed use i.e. leisure use, cafes and community use as opposed to solely retail use, potentially freeing up areas surrounding for residential use.
As to when we expect to hear back from Welsh Government on whether we have been successful in our bid for Levelling up Funding (LUF funding), we hope to hear at some point during the autumn. There’s a separate Welsh Government funding stream for ‘transforming towns’ and some work could happen simultaneously with that funding and if we aren’t successful in the LUF funding, we’ll have to look at what we can prioritise using other funding streams. We have a report to bring to cabinet to discuss what those priorities should be, but we can’t draft that until we know whether we have the LUF funding.
· In relation to the proposal for Raglan that was rejected, do you think this was due to the amount of housing and that a smaller number of houses would have been more accepted?
In short no. The policy we had in place for unallocated sites did us proud for a short amount of time, but that policy is no longer in place, so this will be a discussion for determining which candidate sites to bring forward in the replacement plan.
· I would like to request that officers reword the reference to Raglan having a village hall, when the facility referred to is in poor condition and is not usable as a village hall. Action: Mark Hand agreed to discuss outside the meeting.
· The plan refers to the successful ‘21st century schools’ programme. Are we marketing the education success story, by highlighting the learning and skills offer, thus attracting people to Monmouthshire?
We’re in discussions with colleagues around the wider skills agenda but there’s an extent to which the council should influence the education curriculum and a question as to how a land use planning document can influence that. It is something we are mindful of and can give further thought to.
· With reference to the transport strategy analysis on page 95, the report mentions that there are no new Section 106 agreements because there are no new developments and goes on to discuss existing road infrastructure and primarily rail interchanges, but there is nothing spoken about other forms of public transport or active travel. It then says, ‘nothing recommended’ and ‘no action required at present’, and I’m wondering if we giving it the attention it requires?
Just to advise members that this is a report about historic performance at bringing sites forward, so it’s not to say that changes aren’t required, but this is essentially a backward-looking document.
Thanks are given to officers for this report and to members for their questions. The recommendations are moved and agreed by members.
- 9a LDP Annual Monitoring Report Scrutiny 11 October 2022, item 9. PDF 192 KB
- 9b Appendix 1 Monmouthshire LDP AMR 2021 2022, item 9. PDF 2 MB
- 9c Appendix 2 FG Evaluation AMR October 2022, item 9. PDF 250 KB