Carmarthenshire LDP

Aug 022014
 

After just over two years as head of the Planning Inspectorate in Wales Richard Poppleton is to leave. I have written about Mr Poppleton a couple of times in the recent past; first, on December 30 last year in Richard Poppleton, ‘Organ Grinder’, and again on April 1 this year with Richard Poppleton, On Tour. Seeing as he took up his position as recently as April 2012 this is a rather early – and indeed, sudden – departure. Is he retiring, being re-assigned, or recalled to Berlin London?

I took an interest in Poppleton and his agency for two reasons. First, I wanted to know why the Planning Inspectorate forces through Local Development Plans that demand new housing in excess of local need. Second, I hoped to establish the relationship between the ‘Welsh’ Government and the Inspectorate. The first question is answered below. As for how the buffoons down Cardiff docks interact with the Planning Inspectorate, well, the reality is that the Planning Inspectorate is an Englandandwales outfit and an executive agency of the Department for Commuities and Local Government in London.

The Inspectorate operates in Wales on orders from the DCLG; the only contribution from ‘Welsh’ ministers is to nod in agreement when required, and to read from scripts prepared for them by the Inspectorate’s apparatchiks and other English civil servants. Summed up in this clip from the Gov.UK website entry for Mr Poppleton. The website clearly says ‘Director of Wales, Planning Inspectorate’; not ‘Director, Welsh Planning Inspectorate’; not even ‘Director, Planning Inspectorate Wales’. Clearly, he runs the Wales office for the Planning Inspectorate in London. Anyway, Poppleton is history, he will soon be replaced by another English civil servant.

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Thickett Planing Resource

TONY THICKETT, THE NEW GAULEITER

When I heard the name of his successor, Tony Thickett, it rang bells, so I started searching through my blog, and sure enough, I found him. On March 13, in my post, Bodelwyddan and the Bigger Picture, Thickett’s name emerges as the planning inspector responsible for forcing through the Denbighshire LDP. I urge you to read the blog post and the planning inspector’s report, especially pages 16 – 27, ‘Housing; Need and Supply’, pages 28 – 31 ‘Affordable Housing’ and page 35 where, under ‘Other Matters’, the Welsh language, social and cultural fabric is dealt with.

For those who don’t have the time . . . The council argued, quite correctly, that the 2011 Census and other recent figures had superseded the original LDP and clearly indicate that Denbighshire now needs to plan for fewer new dwellings. Thickett’s response was, in effect, ‘Yes, quite right . . . but we are pushing ahead with the original figure anyway, so shut up!’ In the original LDP there had been provision for 2,250 – 3,000 ‘affordable homes’, but Thickett believed that “around 1,874 affordable homes could be delivered”. On the Welsh language, he made it clear that in his opinion it didn’t really count for anything.

Thickett was accompannied on his excursion to Denbighshire by a Gwynedd Thomas, another planner, obviously Welsh, but clearly outranked by Thickett. How does Gwynedd Thomas feel about being used to give a little local colour to this squalid exercise in colonialism?

More information on Thickett can be found in the panel on the right (click to enlarge) it comes from planningresource.co.uk. Note the announcement was made by the Planning Inspectorate, not the ‘Welsh’ Government. Though I find it strange that this press release, taken from the GOV.UK website, should imply that the appointment means Thickett is “returning to Wales” – where the hell is Denbighshire?

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Thickett’s work in Denbighshire, his report that says, ‘We can do whatever we damn well like, no matter what the evidence and statistics say’, is a warning of what is to come, especially when two new pieces of legislation are enacted: the Planning (Wales) Bill and the Housing (Wales) Bill.

For those who have not been following my countless posts on this new legislation, let me quickly bring you up to speed. The housing bill is, basically, a load of flim-flam for the Left about looking after gypsies and regulating private landlords, yet the main purpose is to integrate social housing allocation in Wales with that in England. Which will mean that a deliberately homeless family of scruffs with no connections with Wales whatsover could be moving to a property close to you in the very near future. (Yeah, I know it already happens but, believe me, when the new legislation comes into force, the floodgates will be opened.)

The changes to the planningStrategic Development Plans laws have been welcomed by builders, developers, estate agents and even lower forms of life not discussed in polite society. Development plans will cover larger areas than the existing local authorities and councillors will be squeezed out to give more power to council officers (too many of whom are not Welsh) and ‘appointees’. Taking power away from Welsh councillors is something I would normally applaud, but a return to the quangoes – which is what the Bill advocates – cannot be supported. The basic reasoning of the new legislation is that planning should be left to the professionals with as little input as possible from those who will be affected by the decisions made by these professionals.

To whet your appetites further, I have included an illustration (click to enlarge) taken from a paper by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners published in December 2013, to help their clients understand Strategic Development Areas in Wales. You will see that our two main cities are shown, presumably as the hubs of their planned city regions (yawn!), but what is that red gash snaking across the north from the border to end in a blob somewhere near Bryngwran? It is described as “the A55 Corridor”, and can only be a commuter corridor . . . not for northern Welsh people to work over the border, but to facilitate the movement into Wales of English people already working over the border, for which thousands and thousands of new homes will be built. (I added Bodelwyddan to the map to help you get the fuller picture.) All this, remember, before the legislation is even passed. The vultures are circling!

You must not think that this is confined to Swansea, Cardiff and the north, for the whole country is under threat, as Cneifiwr recently reminded us with another illuminating post from Carmarthenshire. There, despite the most recent statistics making it clear that population increase will be far lower than previously anticipated by the LDP, and household size (across Wales) larger than predicted, the number of new dwellings planned for has actually been increased! Then, further mirroring Denbighshire, the number of affordable homes to be built in Carmarthenshire has been reduced. Even attitudes towards the language follow the Denbighshire lead; protection for the language will now apply only to those communities where more than 60% of the population speaks Welsh, of which there are just five left. How can the Planning Inspectorate and council planning officers (invariably operating in concert) say, ‘Yes, we agree, the demand for new housing has reduced . . . so we’re going to build even more new houses!’.

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The only answer to that question is that housing in Wales – private and social – has little to do with what we Welsh need. Housing is now quite blatantly being used to increase the English population of Wales and thereby weaken Welsh identity, done in order to reduce the demand for further constitutional change. Then Wales can, to all intents and purposes, be assimilated into England . . . even if the pretence of ‘Wales’ is maintained in sport and other ‘bread and circuses’ spheres. The English Planning Inspectorate is a major player in this ethnocidal strategy. As are the other civil servants, with their hands up the backs of the dummies in the ‘Welsh’ Government, making these wretches say whatever London wants them to say.

We Welsh are on the point of becoming a minority in our own country. This trend has been observable for almost half a century, unsurprising because it began in response to the national awakening of the 1960s. It takes in not just housing, but higher education, the Third Sector, tourism, discrimination in employment, lack of training opportunities, reducing funding to Welsh farmers, highly selective grant funding, the ‘managed decline’ of the Valleys and other areas . . . in short, anything that can be used to disadvantage, sideline and minoritise us Welsh. Others see it, and comment on it without inhibition or sense of guilt; but we Welsh must not discuss it – for to do so makes us ‘racist’. The great taboo subject of contemporary Wales! Compared to this threat to our very existence as a nation nothing else matters: not fracking, not M4 ‘improvements’, not saving the planet, and we certainly shouldn’t concern ourselves with which set of puppets is on stage down Cardiff docks.

Organising an effective resistance to the colonisation strategy cannot be done overnight. Remember that our enemies have taken forty years and more to get to the position they are in today. But the resistance must start with people talking to each other, for there are too many groups and individuals scattered about the country achieving very little because they are precisely that – disparate and dispered groups and individuals. So start putting out feelers, talk to each other, look for common ground, start co-operating, with the aim of finding candidates to give the electorate a clear nationalist alternative on the regional lists in the Assembly elections of 2016.

I advocate this because more important than all the groups and individuals I refer to are the many thousands who have lost faith in the established parties. Many of these were so desperate to show their contempt for the Lab-Con-LD-PC cabal that they voted in large numbers – even in the Valleys! – for the clowns, cretins and crooks of Ukip on May 22. Provide a rallying-point for these who have lost faith and it will be rewarded. Make the elections of 2016 the springboard for a new movement that will start reclaiming our country!

May 012014
 

‘Jac writing about Cardiff!’ I hear you exclaim, before dropping your coffee in your lap. Yes, and I’m not even going to gloat over certain sporting matters. I’m writing this post because the Cardiff LDP could have implications well beyond the city itself. Before getting down to it let me acknowledge that the post was inspired by Councillor Neil McEvoy’s article on Daily Wales. I only know Neil through social networking but he seems the type of energetic and awkward (in the best sense of the word) politician Wales needs. The kind of man who enjoys making life difficult for those who think their decisions should be accepted without question.

First, a brief explanation. Every local authority has to produce a Local Development Plan telling us how it proposes meeting the future needs of its area in terms of population growth and housebuilding. This is done with the ‘guidance’ of the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Statistics and projections are supplied by StatsWales via the Knowledge and Analytical Services of the same London department. Both the PI and KAS have civil servants based in Cardiff, which allows the ‘Welsh’ Government to claim that it alone is responsible for planning matters in Wales. In this, as in so much else, I fear, the ‘Welsh’ Government deludes itself and misleads the rest of us.Cardiff LDP Map

Local Development Plans across Wales cover the period 2006 – 2026 and are at different stages of acceptance and adoption, so the Cardiff Plan is already way behind schedule. Something else worth saying about LDPs is that they were first compiled before the figures from the 2011 Census became available (from July 2012). Which is odd, seeing as the Census results contradicted many of the assumptions and projections on which the LDPs were predicated.

One of the great mysteries of LDPs in Wales is why they were pushed through even though it was known that the presumptions and calculations on which they were based could be undone by the findings of the 2011 Census. It’s not as if the 2011 Census sneaked up on us, everybody knew it was coming, so why not wait for the hard facts it provided. It’s almost as if certain interests wanted to rush the LDPs through before the figures used could be proved wrong by the Census.

The Deposit LDP for Cardiff can be found here and if you scroll down the page you’ll find a link to the Background Technical Paper on Population, Households and Dwellings. On page 17 of the latter document you’ll find the table below. According to this table the population will increase by 71,612 between 2006 and 2026; resulting in 42,363 new households requiring  41,132 new dwellings. These figures are interesting, but even more interesting is the source for the 2026 figures, the ones used to determine how many new dwellings Cardiff will ‘need’. The Population figures for 2006 and 2011 come from the Office for National Statistics’ Mid Year Estimates (MYE). The Household figure for 2006 comes from StatsWales because household projections are contracted out by the ONS to Knowledge and Analytical Services (i.e. StatsWales). But the all-important 2026 figures are attributed to the “Edge Report”, so what is this? Well, it refers to Edge Analytics, “the specialists in demographic modelling”.

Cardiff LDP summary table

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Which then raises the question: ‘Why would Cardiff council recruit expensive consultants? The council already employs thousands of people, it has access through electoral rolls, council tax ledgers, planning and other data to a wealth of information about the city and its people; and all this can be supplemented by the population projections and other figures provided free by the ONS and StatsWales. So why employ outside specialists?

I’ll leave that question for a while to focus on the most recent national projection released by StatsWales / KAS, which says that the population of Wales in 2026 will be 3,238,000, an increase of 164,000 on 2012. At the 2011 Census Cardiff’s population of 346,090 accounted for 11.3% of Wales’ total. So 11.3% of 164,000 would mean Cardiff’s population increasing by 18,532 to 2026. This, I concede, is unrealistic, so let us assume an increase in Cardiff of double the Welsh average, giving a figure of 37,064 and a population in 2026 of  383,154. This, I think, is reasonable, because if we see anything more, such as the 30% of Wales’ total population increase predicted by Edge Analytics (or Cardiff city council), then the rest of the country needs to start asking serious questions of the ‘Welsh’ Government about investment levels and employment opportunities in other areas of Wales.

Cardiff LDP 4

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Which may give us one reason Cardiff city council decided not to use official figures – they didn’t allow for a big enough increase in the city’s population. (Though, in fairness to them, it seems that Edge did suggest reducing certain of the counci’s predictions – see panel – but the council rejected these recommendations!) Although we have the national projection to 2026, StatsWales / KAS needs to pull its finger out and produce the breakdown by local authority, no matter how unwelcome that will be to certain people connected with Cardiff city council.

Having dealt with population projections the other big issue is the number of new homes the council extrapolates from that figure. To be exact, 41,132 to cope with a projected 71,612 more people. Many factors go into determining how many new dwellings will be needed but the two principal considerations are household size, that is, the average number living in any dwelling; and new households forming, that is, people leaving the parental home to live alone or with a partner, marital break-up, etc.

The current average household size for Wales is 2.31 though higher for Cardiff due to its much younger age profile; and there has been a reducing rate of new household formation for a number of years, even before the recent economic crisis. (See the panel above.) One factor is that more people in their twenties and thirties are living with their parents, as this article explains. Another factor will be the changes in benefits payable to, for example, young single mothers. Finally, we need to consider the 3% of the population living in communal establishments, not households. Add it all up and it makes the claimed 42,363 new households from a population increase of just 71,612 difficult to accept, perhaps suggesting that it contains an element of wishful thinking or speculative housing. I would have thought that Cardiff had seen enough of the latter in recent years. Worse, to stick with the housing figure knowing that the population increase itself is exaggerated could mean that the whole exercise is driven by speculative housing interests.

Other factors also need to be considered in explaining why both the population and household projections are unrealistic. First, the city’s student population of some 37,000 accounts for many houses of multiple occupation (HMO), the large number of buy-to-let mortgages, and also helps push up Cardiff’s household size. But there is surely a limit to how many students Cardiff can attract without standards falling and / or too many students alienating the resident population. Second, the population increase figure between 2001 and 2011 was heavily influenced by immigration from the ‘new’ EU states, mainly Poland. The Poles are going home, and they will not be replaced because there is no large country poised to join the EU.

Cardiff LDP Household gibberish

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I conclude that the true purpose of the Cardiff LDP is to increase the size, and importance, of the city at all costs, with one eye on speculative building. This to be done with no heed paid to damage inflicted on the city’s own green spaces nor the economic health of the wider region and Wales. To achieve this grandiose aim the LDP then has to pick and choose which statistics suit the purpose and, indeed, which recommendations of is own consultants can be used. This is one reason Edge Analytics was retained – to serve as a whipping-boy or scapegoat if the opposition got organised – ‘Our consultants advised us . . . ‘. But as we’ve seen, the council was very selective in what it accepted from its consultants.

This all results in hundreds of pages designed to confuse the curious and discourage those minded to oppose the LDP. Partly achieved by passages of near-gibberish, such as the one reproduced in the panel above. There were not “346,100 households in Cardiff” in July 2012, that was the city’s population (though I don’t recognise the figure). While the 2008-based household size projection for Cardiff is actually 2.36, so I have no idea where the 2.35 and 2.33 figures quoted come from. Edge Analytics? Though it may be worth remembering that the smaller the household size then the more new dwellings that will be ‘needed’.

In many respects the Cardiff Local Development Plan is no worse than other LDPs I have looked at, such as those for Carmarthenshire, and Denbighshire. The main difference being that with Cardiff it’s difficult to detect the behind-the-scenes insistence of the Planning Inspectorate on building more houses than an area needs, presumably because Cardiff city council, unlike many other authorities, needed no encouragement. Consequently the Cardiff Local Development Plan is a compendium of carefully selected statistics plus ‘statistics’ that seem to have been plucked from thin air. As a work of the imagination it might be worth entering it for some literary award. But it should never be implemented; for to do so would be damaging both for Cardiff and for Wales.

STOP PRESS: Last night there was a referendum in the Fairwater-Pentrebane area of Cardiff on the LDP. The question posed was: ‘Do You Think That The Deposit Local Development Plan Should Be Adopted For Cardiff?’ The result: Yes 31 votes (2%), No 1,311 votes (98%) Turnout 13.55%. Read about it here in Daily Wales.

Feb 052014
 

There was a piece in today’s WalesOnline by Graham Henry telling us that Wales needs a few hundred thousand more dwellings than are currently planned. I don’t know who fed him the story, but I suspect the Wales-based statisticians of the Knowledge and Analytical Services, who answer to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London. I say that because anyone doing serious journalism on housing projections and Local Development Plans would be bound to mention the Planning Inspectorate. Not mentioning this executive agency of the DCLG is rather like discussing the current upheavals in Welsh rugby and ignoring the role of the Welsh Rugby Union.

What is perhaps worse is that this omission allowed the article to be read as if Welsh local authorities are solely responsible for deciding how many new homes will be built. They are not. That power rests with the Planning Inspectorate, which does not hesitate to regularly insist that councils increase the number of new homes to be planned for. Councils accept these diktats because they simply cannot afford to challenge them, with the Planning Inspectorate backed financially by the UK government.Household projections Carmarthenshire

As the WalesOnline article focused on Carmarthenshire let’s look at the county’s Local Development Plan (of October 2013). Go to section 5.4.7 and we learn that the council anticipates an increase in population from 175,063 in 2008 to 192,740 in 2021, and a projected increase in households in the same period (5.4.8) of 15,197. (The 2011 census gave Carmarthenshire’s population at 181,227.) That the number of new households is not much smaller than the projected population increase is due partly to new families forming, partly to in-migration but mainly to projected smaller household size. In fact, before I started investigating housing and planning in Wales I hadn’t appreciated the importance of the household size figure. Yet it’s difficult to make sense of LDPs and other demands for housing without understanding the relationship between population growth and household size. Put simply, a household means a dwelling. If the projected population increase for an area was 20,000, and average household size was four persons, then a council would need to plan for the building of roughly half the homes needed if the household size was only two persons. Smaller households = more dwellings.

The table above right (click to enlarge) is taken from a June 2011 document, Population and Housing – Revised Topic Paper 2, used to inform the Carmarthenshire LDP. It tells us that the statisticians predict massive increases in the following types of households: single people, couples, and single parents with children. The figures come from, Household Projections for Wales (2006-based), which sees household size in the county drop from 2.25 in 2006 to 2.04 in 2021. Though seeing as this Topic Paper was produced in 2011 it’s strange that it used the 2006 figures rather than those for 2008, which predict a slightly higher average in 2021. It should be pointed out here that the Office for National Statistics has “sourced out” household projections to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. This being the department to which the Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS) answers.

Living at homeSo how reliable are these household size projections? Not very. The 2011 census tells us there were in Carmarthenshire 78,800 households of one or more persons. If we divide this into the population figure of 181,227 it gives us a household average size of 2.30. Obviously this is not exact, but even so, it is higher than the KAS estimate for 2011 0f 2.17. Other information suggests that, far from falling, household size may actually be rising. For example, this recent report tells us that an increasing number of young adults are living at home with a parent or parents, and that this trend was observable before the economic downturn. (See panel, left.) Then, the UK government plans to cut housing benefit for under 25s rather than reduce universal pensioner benefits. Both measures are bound to increase household size. And, as a consequence, reduce the need for new housing.

No one reading this must think that I’m talking only of private, open market, dwellings, for these projections also apply to social housing, which is covered in the Housing (Wales) Bill (see recent posts). This legislation, handed down by the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, will ‘harmonise’ the provision of social housing in Wales and England. In other weopposebedroomtaxwords, anyone qualifying for social housing in England will automatically qualify for social housing in Wales. Which, when added to the UK government’s welfare reforms (such as the ‘bedroom tax’), might explain the Carmarthenshire household projections in the table above . . . if Carmarthenshire is being prepared for an influx of single mothers and others from the Great Wen.

Before concluding I must return to private housing in order to bring to your attention the remarkable transformation that occurs between statisticians’ projections and housebuilders’ planning applications. As we have seen, statisticians argue for ever smaller household size, due to more and more people living alone and an increasing number of childless – usually retired – couples. One team of academics employed by the ‘Welsh’ Government (or someone) told us that, “Of the projected net increase of 269,000 households between 2006 and 2026, 66 per cent are one-person households and 21 per cent one-parent families. ‘Couple’ households contribute 16 per cent of the total increase in households”. (Numerate readers will have noted that these three categories alone add up to 103 per cent!) Which should result in the vast majority of properties built being one- and two-bedroom dwellings – but they’re not. The latest figures available, July – September 2013, tell us that 62.6% of completed dwellings in Wales were three- and four-bedroom houses!

Clearly, a deception is being practised. On the one hand, the UK government and its Wales-based statisticians predict – against increasing evidence – smaller households in order to bump up the number of new properties needed. But then, the Planning Inspectorate, working with housebuilders and others, takes the ‘new dwellings needed’ figures, transforms them into much larger dwellings, and forces Local Development Plans on our councils. We are being made to build social housing to meet an English demand, and also private housing, from Carmarthenshire to Denbighshire, to accommodate a wealthier English influx. All part of a wider strategy of colonisation.

The Local Development Plans for Carmarthenshire and other local authorities were rushed through before the underpinning ‘statistics’ could be invalidated by: a) the consequences of the economic crisis that began in 2008 and b) the 2011 census. Almost as if the Planning Inspectorate and the statisticians knew they had only a short ‘window’ in which to force their plans on our local authorities. Now that we have more reliable statistics the Local Development Plans thus far adopted are invalidated. They must be revised. From now on we must plan for Welsh need and Welsh need only.