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Monday, August 29, 2011

A sensible compromise

There was some joy on the internet yesterday that the Observer had managed to report accurately on an important Welsh issue without patronising us and without alluding to a view commonly held by desk-bound London journalists that Wales is a country of coal mines and heavy industry. Alas that time is in the past.

The article in question referred to the controversy over Carmarthenshire's Local Development Plan, which is proposing 11,000 new homes over the next decade or so, including 1,200 on the edge of Carmarthen itself. That would produce a 20% increase in the size of the town.

They say that the fear among many locals is that the majority of the people moving in will not speak Welsh, a change that would pose a "huge threat" to the language. In my view that is a legitimate concern and one that needs to be addressed, not least by the policy of linguistic impact assessments.

It seems to me that any policy which will produce so many new houses needs to have a robust evidence-base that can show there is a local demand for them. My instincts tell me that 11,000 are too many for that particular area but let us make that judgement on the basis of the facts.

Equally as important though is the wider housing crisis facing Wales, which does need to be addressed. The Welsh Government's own research says that an estimated 284,000 additional homes are required in Wales between 2006 and 2026. 183,000 of these would be in the market sector and 101,000 would be social housing. That is an average of 14,200 new homes a year of which 5,100 need to be affordable. We have already fallen behind that target by 9,500 homes. The Carmarthenshire proposals need to be put into that context.

But this is not just about new homes, it is about affordability for local people wishing to stay in their own communities. Market forces dictate that if there is a shortage of housing then the price will go up and that will often price local people out of the race for the few homes that are available where they live. If we are not building social housing, and remember the Welsh Government budget has been cut drastically for this purpose this year, then people have nowhere to go.

They will often move out of their own community and that will have an equally devastating impact on the language. That is especially so when better resourced outsiders buy up those properties that are for sale. Not building new homes can cause communities to lose cohesion as well.

This is a a very difficult tightrope to tread. We are concerned to maintain our environment and our culture by opposing excessive development, but if we do not meet the demand that is there then newcomers will pick off existing homes as they come on the market and the next generation will not be able to afford to live locally, even if they can find somewhere to buy or rent.

We need to build new homes for sale or rent, both in the private and public sectors if we are to bring down prices. It is the only way that we can make housing affordable again. How we do it though is a challenge we have yet to meet.
Good to hear that you are concerned about the Carmarthenshire LDP.

The council proposes "mitigation" measures, which boil down to phasing development, bilingual signage and undefined support for the language. Phasing the building of 1000+ homes on the site over the 8 year life of the LDP will not help at all, and the other measures are meaningless.

Another weakness in language planning which the Assembly needs to tackle is that language impact assessments look only at individual development sites, and not at the cumulative impact of multiple sites in and around a settlement.

As for affordable housing, Carmarthenshire's record is deplorable. Two huge housing developments in Llanelli and Ammanford with zero affordable housing.

This plan must be ripped up and the council told to start again.
There is no demand for new homes in carmarthen because there is no economy whatsoever.
The council has brought in UK chainstores which are seeing small businesses close and money going out of the area.
The carmarthen local development plan makes little attempt at eco building to use local materials.
also it does not matter if people are not from the area, do people from Birmingham or Bristol complain that people living in these places do not speak with a locla accent? I doubt.
There is no shortage of housing in the county. It will drive prices down . In burry Port there are many adequate buildings needing renovating but the council lacks the will.
Bottom line is the economy is so poor, they are wanting to build houses when there is no genuine demand. Ask estate agents, enough houses in Carms but not enough buyers.
as Nick clegg asiad the best is renovating . It does not impose itself on the bovine TB ridden countryside and in many cases the houses are very good in terms of build quality and sturdiness, just need some thinking
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