Agenda item

Revised Local Development Plan: Preferred Strategy

To conduct pre-decision scrutiny on the amended Preferred Strategy.


Cabinet Member Paul Griffiths introduced the item. Craig O’Connor and Mark Hand delivered the presentation and answered the members’ questions with Councillor Griffiths and Councillor Burch. In relation to the comments made in the Public Open Forum, Mark Hand noted that the Local Transport Plan and Infrastructure Plan will accompany the LDP at the later deposit stage; this is the first stage of statutory consultation. Officers are complying with the regulations and progressing in the right order – the matters raised will be fully considered later.




Are there assurances that there will be funding for robust active travel links to these new sites prior to new houses going up? e.g. the Abergavenny site is close to a busy road and rail line, it is unlikely that people will walk or cycle to town via the Hardwick roundabout, and once they have a car to do so they won’t revert back to active travel.


We are not yet at the stage to give reassurances about funding but the national planning policy has recently been updated to clarify active travel and timescales for development and delivery, so it does support new developments in the way described. We are working closely with the Active Travel team. These strategic sites were picked up in the integrated network maps so that options are kept open for future priorities, and those network maps are the basis for future funding applications. The intention is to have routes in place at the outset, and funding for them.


We cannot envisage taking the Abergavenny site forward without a clear link across the railway line into town. We are already investing in an active travel route to the Caldicot site from the centre, which we hope to see completed before taking forward the residential development. Plans are in place to connect the Bayfield site to the schools and Chepstow town centre; we must ensure that they are completed in advance of/alongside residential development.


There has been a lot of development with housing estates built but no services built with them. What levers can we pull to ensure that these public services are in place in order to create communities and keep residents out of cars?


We are working with various organisations concerning various aspects. One is that some sites are mixed-use development, another concerns school places, which is relatively straightforward as we as the local education authority can deal with capacity and need. The most complicated part is health infrastructure, for which we’re working with ABHB e.g. at recent and upcoming meetings of Monmouthshire GP groups. We will engage fully with them as this process continues.


We need more than ‘ambition’ in relation to net zero: we need ‘requirement’. Is there any reassurance about that?


We sent a detailed note to all promoters of sites that we seek Net Zero, going above building regulations. The strategic policy will say that each home constructed will be net zero ready. That detailed policy will come later in the plan – this is the wider vision of the plan – hence the use of ‘ambition’, but we are making net zero a requirement.


What about the impact on rural areas? How are they being favourably developed?


National Planning Policy is to focus on town centres first, ensuring their viability and that they are protected for the long term. We have to think about new methods of delivery, e.g. different uses of town centres. Planning Policy Wales highlights the need for community services in town centres. This document is the preferred strategy so doesn’t include the detail yet, but later we will have detailed policies about how we do that. The RLDP allocates land for development but there is also a swathe of planning policies by which all future planning applications will be determined. At this stage we are looking at the strategic level of growth: addressing affordability, the demographic challenge, the climate change agenda, etc. It is worth also remembering what the planning process stops, as well as enables e.g. the other aspect of supporting town centres is preventing out-of-town retail. Therefore, some of the preventative measures support town centres.


Concerning the number of different rural settlements e.g. Tier 4 settlements, many of those fall in the Upper Wye catchment area, which hasn’t necessarily been recognised – could we have clarification on that?


Any development proposals in those areas are considered in terms of phosphates and the NRW planning guidance i.e. ensuring that we evidence nutrient neutrality and that no development will have an adverse effect on river conservation. That will continue until the river comes into favourable consideration. The strategy outlines that 100 homes will be allocated in the smaller settlements; we haven’t decided which yet. Some of the detail being sought will come at the deposit planning stage. In Table 1 of the report, we’ve stripped out every assumption for the Upper Wye valley catchment. We haven’t assumed a past trend of windfalls within it.


What does the insistence on energy efficiency entail? Are we getting to the point where in Planning we will be able to say that something is not approved if these things aren’t in place?


We are working in a planning policy framework from 2014. It’s positive that this preferred strategy proposes that we go for a high level of net zero homes so, yes, it will give members the option to say no to a development that doesn’t hit that standard. It will be different for different sites, i.e. whether having solar panels makes it net zero, or something else. Some of this policy should be at a national level but in Monmouthshire we will be able to hold developers to account.


Will there be an extra question on candidate sites?


Candidate sites are in the Council report for 1st December – Council will be asked to endorse this strategy for public consultation, agree to the candidate site register going out to public consultation and the delivery agreement for submission to Welsh Government (the timetable and community involvement scheme), the habitat regulations assessment and the integrated sustainability appraisal. In terms of candidate sites, it’s a chance for people to comment on everything that has been submitted in the process, including the 3 strategic sites.


For the Forest of Dean’s proposed development in Lydney, we suggested a bypass and active travel – does the same not apply to Chepstow and Caldicot? Welsh Government has put a moratorium on road building but if roads can’t be built, surely houses can’t either, if we can’t put in the right infrastructure? Won’t Chepstow come to a standstill with all of this house building and the resulting traffic flow from Caldicot’s developments and FOD?


Yes, we need to consider wider strategic sites and proportion of growth together. We are comfortable with 68% of that growth being in Chepstow and Caldicot but we need to look at infrastructure issues in the round. It is worth noting that a significant proportion of Chepstow’s growth has been bumped to Caldicot, being the same housing market area, but Chepstow is heavily constrained. We are mindful of the issues raised, such as how we link with FOD and how the sites will work.


The hierarchy in national planning and transport policy is: initially, it’s about reducing the need to travel (having the developments be sustainable, urban extensions on existing settlements with the most amenities e.g. Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth), then it’s about active travel (sites being in walking and cycling distance to town centres, and transport infrastructure), then public transport. There are undeniably knotty issues to work through in coming years, but there is a rationale behind the sites identified, and it is right for the growth to go on to those larger towns with those amenities.


What defines a ‘settlement’? Has Welsh Government not said that there are to be no new settlements?


We aren’t proposing new settlements, they are urban extensions to the towns – a new settlement would be defined as being self-contained with its own amenities, employment, etc. National planning policy has changed; in our first growth options we looked at the option of new settlements but due to the national policy it isn’t on the table any more.


What about the possibility of a train station at Caerwent?


This proposal isn’t on the table but there is the South Wales Metro proposals to increase railway frequency in Chepstow and Abergavenny, and the Burns Commission M4 alternatives, looking at significant improvements, particularly at Severn Tunnel Junction. There are ongoing discussions with Cabinet Members about other aspects of travel infrastructure, including rail connections between Lydney and Severn Tunnel Junction, which are currently lacking. Caerwent isn’t in those discussions. Magor walkway station is, however, recognised by the Burns Commission, which we are supporting as a planning authority.


Is there an opportunity for new schooling? The Crick site is a concern: there’s no provision for extra school places. Caldicot infrastructure is a great concern e.g. some trains aren’t allowed to stop in Caldicot.


New schools is certainly something to be explored, particularly regarding Abergavenny East and Caldicot East. We work very closely with our education colleagues; they have already given us ideas about school capacity but almost until deposit plan stage, when it’s known exactly which catchment a proposed development will be in, they can’t give us certainty about how to proceed. These strategic sites constitute new information for us to work through with them. The size probably means that there is scope for on-site primary school provision for both.


Should there be a Plan B for Monmouth, if things being put in place to address the phosphates problem come to timely fruition?


We have had detailed conversations with Welsh Water and NRW looking at when a solution can be delivered. Welsh Water is committed to finding a solution but they don’t know what it is yet – more R&D is needed. In terms of the preferred strategy, we need to move forward, we could stop and wait but the issues are continually increasing, which is why there are no new allocations in Monmouth. There are sites there though that will still be in the plan as bonus sites – they can be retained, so affordable housing can be delivered in the town, not in new allocations but on existing sites.


Will Exception sites be able to deliver a percentage of affordable and mixed-need homes?


Welsh government policy is clear that we need to be ‘plan-led’, so we need to ensure that the LDP allocates sites for development and any other sites outside that don’t come forward, so we can ensure that we have the right infrastructure and connections. But we are looking to have an affordable housing exception policy, so exception sites on our primary settlements for small, proportional growth, to allow for 100% AH sites.


Can we not include battery storage for personal use and therefore lower prices for the household?


Yes, these can be included and we will look at that.


With aiming for 50% Affordable Housing, can people in time purchase the house, meaning that further down the line it will no longer be an ‘affordable house’?


There are three types of affordable housing: social rent, intermediate rent and low-cost home ownership. With the latter, it’s typically 50% but one can get to 100% and own the property. But to be national planning policy compliant the affordable housing is affordable in perpetuity, and the receipt from the sale of the extra proportion of the house goes back to the registered social landlord and reinvested into AH. It’s not a loss of affordable housing in the grand scheme of things, in the way of right-to-buy, which no longer exists in Wales. The model that we use, that allows for moving up to 100%, is effectively an equity share scheme. We probably do need to review the model in Monmouthshire.


What other facilities would you expect for a site that’s 900+? Would it be large enough to have things like contributions to surgeries etc., to improve local facilities?


It’s too early to say what will be on the sites. There will be detailed master planning of the strategic sites with site promoters, stakeholders, colleagues, and Design Commission for Wales. Sites of that size might have space within them for a new GP surgery, depending on healthcare needs in the area. It is all to be determined but there will be some amenities for a development of that scale.


Chair’s Summary:


Cabinet Member Paul Griffiths made the following comments:


I assure the committee that their comments will be included in the 1st December report if possible, but if not, then as the process moves forward. Recognising the earlier comments, ‘ambition’ is nonetheless an important word to include and quality to have. We want our homes and settlements to set a national standard. The aim of improving town centres is why the new settlements are attached to existing ones. Connectivity will be so important; active travel will be crucial. We continue to have ambitions for rail transport: in conversations with Transport For Wales, we already have a commitment for at least 2 trains an hour on the Chepstow-Caldicot line and will press for enhancements on that. Welsh Government is reviewing roads, as part of which I will press the case for road enhancement in the county. The intended developments for Caldicot require a new junction on the M48, or a reclassification of that road – we will make that case forcefully to Welsh Government.


The Chair added the following comments:


From a Portskewett perspective, it seems that there is a disproportionate amount of housing in the Caldicot area, and a shared concern about the infrastructure becoming gridlocked. There is already a lot of traffic due to developments that are underway. We need to learn from overdevelopment mistakes in the Chepstow area. There are references to town extensions but the centres are very tired – there isn’t a good offer e.g. Caldicot. The land proposed for the Crick Road development attracts a lot of visitors – if that goes, there is little attracting people to the area. Did Welsh Government not say that they were against open countryside development, and noted any adverse effects on the landscape of Caldicot Castle? The castle floods very badly so constituents are very concerned about the proposed number of houses.

Members share concerns about active travel being incorporated a the outset, rather than as an afterthought. There are concerns about health and public transport for the proposed sites. We want to see high standards with regard to energy efficient homes. Members have raised infrastructure issues, especially in the SE corner of the county. We want people out of their cars but some residents travel out of the county and railways aren’t always suitable. Affordable housing is welcome but, again, the infrastructure is vital. It is disappointing that no new allocations are forthcoming for Monmouth, but hopefully a solution will be found soon. We encourage residents to be part of the public consultation.


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