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26/07/2018

Welsh policy changes will harm housebuilding and risk £150m economic hit

Words: Huw Morris
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Changes to Welsh planning policy will significantly damage the economy and lead to fewer homes being built, say housebuilders.

Wales’s 25 planning authorities must have a rolling five-year supply of housing land with “considerable weight” given to increasing homes where this cannot be demonstrated. The Welsh Government has now removed the “considerable weight” phrasing when dealing with applications to ease pressure on planning authorities.

Although almost all Welsh authorities have local development plans in place, only three have an established five-year supply of housing land.

Research by Lichfields shows the number of annual completions has fallen from an average of 13,750 a year between 1974 and 1979 to an average of 6,050 a year since 2010. A total of 6,037 homes were completed in 2017-18 compared to the government’s target of between 9,000 and 12,000.

Lichfields now estimates the change will reduce annual housebuilding in Wales by almost a third and could lead to the loss of £150 million to the economy.

“Wales is already facing a huge undersupply of new homes and the decision to make this amendment threatens to reduce output further,” said Home Builders Federation executive chairman Stewart Baseley. “Local authorities in Wales are not abiding by their responsibilities and allocating enough land in the right or viable locations for the homes their communities need.”

Steve Williams, managing director of Barratt and David Wilson Homes South Wales, said the change would have a serious impact on housing numbers.

“Due to the change, the majority of local authorities which have not got a five-year land supply will now not be challenged to bring forward deliverable sites,” he added. “This stipulation had previously acted as a mechanism to breach the gap where not enough land was available.”

Roisin Willmott FRTPI, director of RTPI Cymru, welcomed the promptness of the Welsh Government’s review of the delivery of housing through the planning system.

“The delivery of much needed housing is extremely important in Wales but delivering it in the right place is also important.

“A significant effort is invested by a range of organisations and individuals, including the public, into local development plans (LDPs) and trust must be maintained in the plan-led system. Public expectations have been raised that sites allocated in LDPs will be developed as proposed, and that those not allocated will, in general, not be developed. Housing sites in LDPs have been allocated taking into account access to jobs, schools, other facilities and services, green infrastructure and transport networks. Any system which facilitates sites coming forward speculatively is likely to generate uncertainty, and reduce confidence in the planning system, discouraging community engagement in the LDP preparation process.

“We would suggest that other aspects of TAN 1 arguably have a greater impact, particularly for LPAs and LDPs, for example: using only the residual calculation method to calculate the five year housing land supply; and only allowing authorities with an adopted LDP or in-time UDP to calculate their five year housing land supply, introduced to encourage LPAs to adopt LDPs.

“The current review will enable all of the issues to be considered; RTPI Cymru looks forward to responding to the call for evidence.”

Image credit | iStock

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