Denbighshire

Aug 072017
 

Everybody seems to have had their say on this subject so I might as well make my contribution.

First, remember that what was passed a week last Friday was the LDP for Gwynedd minus the Snowdonia National Park, which has its own planning authority and its own LDP. Even though the Park covers most of the county, in population terms it accounts for just over a fifth.

This is due to the largest towns being outside the Park, while Blaenau Ffestiniog, Barmouth and Tywyn are surrounded by the Park but form ‘islands’ covered by the Gwynedd LDP. The largest towns within the Snowdonia National Park are Bala and Dolgellau.

I’ve read the arguments on both sides of this debate, thanks in part to Nation.Cymru, where we were offered, ‘Building 8,000 new homes on Gwynedd and Môn is a defeat for Welsh democracy’ by Huw Williams, with the counter argument from Dyfrig Jones in ‘Building fewer houses would drive up prices and drive away our youth’.

In a sense, both are right. But Dyfrig Jones is also wrong. Let me explain.

‘WHERE WILL OUR YOUNG PEOPLE LIVE?’

Once upon a time, when tribunes of a fraternal bent controlled rural councils, Ceredigion was ruled by Dai Lloyd Evans and his crew, one of the most corrupt, self-serving groups ever to run a Welsh council. (And by God that is saying something!) Not for nothing did Paul Flynn MP refer to Ceredigion in some Commons committee as “the Wild West Show” when it came to planning matters.

Because most of these fraternalist councillors were landowners they wanted to build lots of houses to enrich themselves. Dai Lloyd Evans even bought a field – or was it two? – outside of his native Tregaron and then made sure that the settlement boundary was moved to include his field(s). Planning permission was of course granted for said fields.

In defence of this bonanza of housebuilding all sorts of bollocks was trotted out; from Dai Lloyd himself I remember, ‘But without these new houses where will our young people live?’ We were asked to believe that three- and four-bedroom houses selling for £180,000+ (in 2005) were targeting young, local buyers.

Now I’m not comparing Dyfrig Jones to Dai Lloyd Evans, but . . . the ‘young people’ argument does echo the timeless hypocrisy of the former Ceredigion council leader.

For a start, too many of our young people can’t afford to buy a new house – full stop. But these properties are not intended for local buyers anyway, something made clear from where the new developments are located.

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The new housing planned for Gwynedd is mainly in the north of the county (as is the case in Conwy and Denbighshire) and there’s a very good reason for that – the A55 Expressway. What is taking shape before our eyes is a commuter corridor along the A55 that will allow people working in the Merseyside and Manchester conurbations to live ‘in the country’.

OH, GIVE ME A HOME WHERE THE MILLIONAIRES ROAM

Let me start explaining this with a wee digression.

When I was growing up in Swansea, someone who moved out to Gower was usually thought to have ‘made it’, done well for themselves (or maybe knocked over a bank). I suppose the Vale of Glamorgan fulfils a similar function for Cardiff.

On a larger scale, Cheshire entices those who wish to, and can afford to, avoid the urban sprawl of north west England. Some of the communities with the highest property prices outside of London and its ‘stockbroker belt’ are to be found in Cheshire.

Human nature being what it is, if you’ve paid a million or two for your house in Prestbury, Wilmslow or Alderley Edge, then you don’t want your idyll spoilt – and the value of your property lowered – by a new estate full of double-glazing salesmen and Stockport County footballers. It’s ‘Him off the telly’ and Wayne Rooney or nothing. Which results in many of those who’d like to live in leafy Cheshire being moved on. (This also explains why, in the code used by estate agents, Wrecsam is now ‘West Cheshire’.)

But even if giant ‘Sod Off!’ signs were placed at regular intervals on every highway and by-way approaching the Golden Triangle it would do little to stem the flow of the upwardly mobile out of the nearby cities. And as there’s not much of a welcome further west, around Chester, either, they trudge on further.

Another reason for building so many new houses close to the A55 is that politicians, being what they are – lying bastards, generally – can interpret this protection of Cheshire property values as an indicator of a healthy economy along the north coast. It’s nothing of the kind, or course, but politicians will never miss an opportunity to pat themselves on the back.

Just picture it – Guto Bebb, David Jones, Michelle Brown plus Carwyn and his cohorts fighting over the best spot in front of the cameras!

Finally, let us not forget the grand design to assimilate Wales into England. New housing built in Wales for which there is little or no local demand is a vital part of that strategy.

‘STATISTICS, WHAT STATISTICS?’

Huw Williams was right to argue that accepting this LDP was a defeat for Welsh democracy, though not only because Gwynedd council caved in but because of the way in which housing ‘need’ figures are arrived at, or contrived, and the ruthless inflexibility with which they have been enforced.

I’ve dealt with Local Development Plans and the Planning Inspectorate many times before. (Just type Planning Inspectorate into the ‘Search’ box at the top of the sidebar.) Reading ‘Planning Inspectorate: New Gauleiter for Wales’ will help.

The problem with LDPs is that the Planning Inspectorate predicted future need on a combination of population and household size estimates produced before the data from the 2011 Census were available, and using recent demographic trends – i.e. English immigration!

When the Census findings became available, and they showed that population increase from 2001 to 2011 was less than the Inspectorate had predicted, and that household size was greater – combining to mean fewer properties needed – these inconvenient truths were brushed aside to insist on sticking to the original, and now discredited, predictions.

One example is Denbighshire. The council there argued that in light of new figures the county now needed far fewer properties than had been called for by the ‘Welsh’ Government’s projections, which argued for 8,500 new units between 2008 and 2023. For what the Census and the ONS’ predictions told us was that the projected population increase for Denbighshire in that period was now 4,134.

The Planning Inspectorate accepted the council’s argument (how could they contradict the Census and the Office for National Statistics?) but insisted on sticking with the original – and now discredited – projection! The clip below is from the Inspectors’ report.

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So, for a predicted population increase of just 4,134, and a household size of 2.31 reducing to 2.23 in 2026 Denbighshire must still build 8,500 units.

Of course, it helps to understand all this when you realise that the Planning Inspectorate is an Englandandwales body answering to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London . . . though the ‘Welsh’ Government is allowed to pretend that it has control of the Inspectorate in Wales. It doesn’t.

As might be predicted with such a body, the Welsh language is a vital concern. The recommendation for Denbighshire being . . . bilingual signage.

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A SYSTEM TO SERVE WALES

Where Dyfrig Jones is right is in arguing that building fewer houses will drive up prices . . . but to follow that argument to its illogical conclusion is to believe that house prices will start falling, will come within the reach of Welsh people, only when the external demand is sated – but the external demand is insatiable.

With Local Development Plans we are dealing with a broken system, certainly one that does not work for Wales. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, and as I hope I’ve explained, is the role of the Planning Inspectorate, an Englandandwales body working within an Englandandwales strategic framework that sees Wales helping meet England’s need for housing. There is no way that such a body can serve Wales.

Second, when it comes to strategic planning, the ‘Welsh’ Government has willingly subordinated itself to the UK government to the detriment of Wales’ best interests. So much for devolution!

Third, as Huw Williams suggested on Nation.Cymru, the whole system is a negation of democracy that sees those we elect bullied by persons sent into Wales to serve a dubious agenda. That is bad enough, but too often the Planning Inspectorate finds ready accomplices in the higher ranks of council employees.

Radical change is needed.

It should go without saying that Wales needs a planning system that serves Welsh needs, not the interests of those who can’t afford to buy the property they’d like in Wilmslow. This must be a priority. No more imposed LDPs.

To build fewer houses yet ensure that Welsh people are not excluded we need legislation to guarantee that a majority of the housing stock is restricted to those with strong local connections. To those born and educated in the area, perhaps those who have lived locally for a given period.

It might be worth considering the models that operate in the Channel Islands.

On the largest island, Jersey, there are four categories of resident: ‘Entitled’, ‘Licensed’, ‘Entitled to Work’ and ‘Registered’. As the website tells us, “The “Entitled” category is attributed to those who are Jersey born and have reached the required aggregate residency period.  This category also applies to people who have lived in Jersey for a continuous period of 10 years.”

Jersey

On the second largest island, Guernsey, the system is even simpler. There they have a Local Market and an Open Market, which is almost self-explanatory. The Open Market covers larger, more expensive properties (some 7% of the housing stock), and while locals can buy in the Open Market the Local Market is reserved for them.

‘Ah, but Jac’, I hear you protest, ‘to implement such a policy in Wales would be decried in the English media as ‘racist’. Really! How could it be racist in Wales yet no one complains about the Channel Islands using these methods?

Might the silence have something to do with so many English newspaper proprietors and others having money hidden business interests on the islands, with the Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph, actually owning one of the smaller islands, Brecqhou?

CONCLUSION

As someone who has been involved in nationalist politics – often on the ‘hairier’ fringes . . . sometimes very hairy – I know that for fifty years our masters have carefully avoided gifting us another Tryweryn, or another Investiture, anything that might mobilise armchair patriots and produce converts.

Instead, the strategy employed since the 1960s has been to chip away at what makes Wales different. The most effective tactic being demographic change; reduced to its crudest expression – ‘Welsh out, English in’.

The beauty of this strategy is that no single blow ever rouses enough people to challenge the strategy . . . so on it goes . . . chip, chip, chip. The Gwynedd LDP, the managed decline of the Valleys, turning our countryside into a recreational and retirement area for England . . . all these are chipping away at the distinctiveness of Wales, and the survival of Welsh identity.

This strategy is succeeding; soon there will be little left at which to chip. If we don’t wake up soon and grasp that we are in a struggle for national survival, one that must transcend politics and take precedence over everything else, then we might as well stop kidding ourselves and call it a day.

A national struggle against English colonialism is our only hope. No party politics. No divisive ideologies. A national struggle.

♦ end ♦

 

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.

Apr 292014
 
Population density 2010

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Using the population density map to the right you’ll see that what I choose to call ‘rural Wales’ is those areas with fewer than one hundred persons per square kilometre, though I would make two adjustments. If the coastal strip – Rhyl, etc – is removed then the rest of Denbighshire qualifies as rural, and although Carmarthenshire falls into the <100 category it makes sense to link Llanelli – in the south east corner – with the Swansea Bay conurbation. This leaves us with some eighty per cent of Wales’ landmass, roughly a quarter of the population, no towns bigger than Bangor, Aberystwyth or Carmarthen, and of course, what remains of the Welsh language’s heartland, Y Fro Gymraeg.

There are three main players in rural Wales whose roles I want to examine in relation to the oft-bewailed ‘rural housing crisis’.

First, we have the local big-shots; landowners, businessmen and the like, for whom personal gain takes precedence over all other considerations. A good example would be Dai Lloyd Evans and his confreres who controlled Ceredigion council, buying up land before planning strategies were made public, and then selling it to developers or building on it themselves. Arguing that without these three- and four-bedroom houses local newly-weds would have nowhere to enjoy their connubial bliss . . . even though the youngsters for whom the gang feigned concern couldn’t afford these houses!

Also involved were estate agents and others looking for a profit. Such as local builders, most of whom were honest enough to admit that the houses they were building were, in the main, for English in-comers. But one builder, who received considerable coverage in the Wasting Mule, went over the top by arguing that if he wasn’t allowed to build houses for English colonists then there’d be no work for his Welsh-speaking workers; consequently, the language would die. An intriguing argument, asking us to believe that the Welsh language in Ceredigion depends for its survival on English colonisation!

Second, we have the equally unconvincing arguments forwarded by the Planning Inspectorate to justify yet more housing such as the Bodelwyddan New Town in Denbighshire. Namely, because Denbighshire has an ageing population – with the bulk of its elderly from England – a younger influx must be encouraged to balance things out. In other words, ‘You have a problem with English colonisation – so we advocate more of it’!

Elsewhere, the Planning Inspectorate promotes housebuilding as a self-justifying, stand-alone economic activity, rather than as something that would, in any normal society, be consequential upon economic prosperity and population growth. Explained as an ‘economic boost’ for rural Wales this is the policy I outlined in my post If You Build Them, They Will Come.

Finally, we are told that ‘Wales needs more houses’ to meet an indigenous demand, and to cater for ‘natural’ growth.

Third, we have social housing providers. Ostensibly meeting the needs of those who cannot afford to buy a home, yet we all know that far too many housing association properties are being allocated to ‘the vulnerable’ and ‘the needy’ from over the border; simpering euphemisms for substance abusers, ex-cons, paedophiles, problem families and the others who make up England’s white underclass.

Y Bwthyn, Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant

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Another problem is that since social housing passed from councils to housing associations jobs have been lost in areas that can ill afford to lose any. In Gwynedd the council’s housing stock went to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, which then gave the contract for maintaining its properties to an English company, Lovell, which in turn sub-contracted the work to other English companies. My disabled next-door-neighbour waited weeks for his bathroom to be tiled by a firm that either didn’t turn up at all or else turned up around 11am and was gone by 3pm – because they came from Wigan, 120 miles from Tywyn!

There are serious questions to be asked about why the ‘Welsh’ Government is funding – via the Social Housing Grant and other means – what are to all intents and purposes private companies. Private companies that are a) importing undesirables and b) losing Wales contracts and jobs. Organisations about which it is almost impossible to get information due to the fact they are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation, and are not registered with Companies House due to being Industrial and Provident Societies. Conversely, if they are not private companies, but are what they claim to be, which is ‘not-for-profit’ organisations in receipt of public funding, then why are they not subject to FoI requests? Are we not entitled to know how our money is being spent?

I propose returning to the intriguing matter – and anomalous status – of housing associations later, with a full post. (Any information received will be treated with the usual sagacious discretion. Send to: editor@jacothenorth.net.)

Social Housing Grant

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What we see in the three examples I have used above is how deliberate lies become the terms of debate, the very vocabluary, when dealing with rural housing in Wales. It’s like some parallel universe where black is white and right is wrong. That said, there is one unavoidable truth upon which everyone agrees . . . before corrupting that truth to serve the same selfish or anti-Welsh interests. As you will read below.

Rural Wales has an oversupply of housing . . . by which I mean, more housing than will be needed by the indigenous population for at least a generation.

The true problem is that the indigenous Welsh are excluded from much of this housing. Either because they are unable to afford the prices asked for open market housing or else because social housing providers too often find ‘clients’ over the border who take precedence over locals.

But then something very clever happens. The inability of Welsh people to buy private dwellings, or access social housing, is used as the excuse to build yet more housing – from which the unchanged system still excludes them!

To remedy this institutionalised con trick we need to a) provide meaningful financial aid for Welsh (especially first-time) buyers and b) move towards a split market, where a percentage of properties in all areas is reserved for local buyers; while in the social housing sector ensure that no one qualifies for social housing unless they have been resident in Wales for at least five years.

Apr 152014
 

At the risk of repeating myself . . . There is an issue I touched on in an earlier post that has been nagging at me to the point where I think it needs another post to elaborate and explore it better.

In my attempts to explain the machinations of the Planning Inspectorate I have often used the example of Denbighshire. Partly because I like (inland) Denbighshire and partly because it serves the purpose well. In particular, I drew attention to the anomaly of Denbighshire being told – by the Planning Inspectorate – to build 8,500 new housing units (some of which have already been built) between 2006 and 2021 despite the population being projected to increase by only a further 2,927 between 2014 and 2021.

In an earlier post, Bodelwyddan and the Bigger Picture, I drew attention to a Planning Inspectorate report of 2013 into Denbighshire’s Local Development Plan, and the report’s rejection of the county council’s very reasonable attempts to get the new housing figure reduced in line with the revised population projections. What the inspectors said can be found in part 4.8 of their report, reproduced in the panel.4.8 What I neglected to explain fully in the earlier post was what is meant by “the LDP’s objectives and aspirations”, which expose the absurdities behind forcing a Welsh local authority to plan for some four or five times the number of new housing units it actually needs. So what are the “objectives and aspirations” of the LDP?

In essence, the LDP argues that because Denbighshire has an ageing population it must remedy this by bringing in to the county a younger population. The Planning Inspectorate is therefore saying, ‘Because you attract so many elderly English people to Denbighshire you must improve the county’s age profile by attracting a younger English population’. This is the insane ‘aspiration’ of the LDP, this is the double whammy I refer to in the title.

Yet at the 2011 Census the percentage of the county’s population in the 65+ age bracket was just 21% (the figure for Wales is 18.4%). But only 42.7% of Denbighshire’s 65+ population was born in Wales. While the figure for the 0 – 49 age group was 67.8%, and well over 70% away from the coastal towns. So the 65+ figure for Denbighshire isn’t really high enough to justify the numbers of new dwellings being demanded by the Planning Inspectorate. Strengthening the suspicion that the county is being forced into allowing thousands of new dwellings, close to the A55, for commuters from Merseyside, Manchester and Cheshire. Nothing at all to do with correcting a generational imbalance, that is merely a pretext.

Using the Denbighshire argument the Planning Inspectorate could demand excessive numbers of new housing in any area with an above average percentage of the population in the 65+ age bracket. Which would mean Gwynedd SW Wards mergedjust about any rural area. This is clever, and naughty, considering that it was the Planning Inspectorate that very often insisted on the flats and retirement bungalows that attracted the retirees and the elderly in the first place. Making the Planning Inspectorate’s solution a bit like ‘treating’ a hangover by getting drunk again and repeating the process endlessly. (Something I read about, somewhere.) There has to be a better way – the planning equivalent of not getting drunk in the first place.

In the area where I live the 65+ age group accounts for 30.1% of the total population, and of that group just 31.6% was born in Wales. (Click to enlarge panel.) By the Inspectorate’s own reasoning, this is not healthy, and something should be done to remedy the problem. But a younger element cannot be attracted to the area a) because there is little or no work and b) southern Gwynedd – unlike Denbighshire – is too far away for English commuters. So either we remedy the generational imbalance by bringing in a non-working younger population or we curb the numbers of retirees and elderly moving in. The answer is becoming obvious, especially when isolated.

The whole Western world admits to the accelerating problem of a falling birthrate / ageing population and wonders how to cope. Yet here, on the periphery of Europe, one of the continent’s poorest countries is actually encouraging elderly people to move in! This will result in the death of the Welsh language and the loss of Welsh identity, it will push the NHS and other services beyond breaking point while, economically, this house of cards cannot endure, because the idea that it’s possible to have a healthy, functioning society when the bulk of the adult population is economically inactive is simply delusional. While to misrepresent this phenomenon as proof of ‘Caring Wales’, or to make a virtue of it by arguing that it shows how ‘attractive’ Wales is to outsiders, is no better than telling a rape victim she should be flattered that someone found her so irresistable.

Curbing the numbers of retired and elderly people moving to Wales must henceforth be a priority for the ‘Welsh Government, because if this is not done then the costs will rise, and eventually engulf us. Now, obviously, the ‘Welsh’ Government, even if it was so minded, could not pass legislation stating this as an objective, but it could certainly introduce legislation to ensure that the flats and retirement bunglaows aimed specifically at buyers of a certain age, living outside of Wales, are no longer built in the numbers, and the concentrations, of the recent past.

Curbing this unsustainable influx would also ensure that the Planning Inspectorate could not engage in the black arts of planning as it has in Denbighshire – using one form of colonisation to demand another.

Mar 132014
 

I had intended putting this out on Twitter or Facebook, just to inform people that the deadline for representations on the planned 1,700 new homes at Bodelwyddan in Denbighshire has been extended to March 21st. In view of the new figures available for both population predictions and household size it is well worth challenged this plan because it is clearly no longer needed. (In fact, these 1,700 new homes were never needed.) I have chosen to develop the subject into a post after reading the planning inspectors’ report on Denbighshire’s Local Development Plan. (Click on image to enlarge.)Denbighshire blog map

I want to pick out certain comments made by the inspectors because they are worthy of a wider audience. I say that because although we may be talking here of Bodelwyddan, or Denbighshire, the attitudes displayed by the inspectors have national implications. Because this is how they operate all over Wales.

Let’s start by identifying the inspectors, Anthony Thickett and Gwynedd Thomas. We can safely assume that the report is the work of Thickett and that Gwynedd Thomas is there to lend a little local colour. I Googled ‘Anthony Thickett’ and found his name linked to planning matters all over England and Cornwall in recent years. Though he seems to be based in Cardiff, which provides further proof that the Planning Inspectorate is an Englandandwales body, and answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. So what did Mr Thickett have to say last year in response to Denbighshire County Council’s revision of their Local Development Plan? As you might imagine, I was specifically interested in those recommendations that related to housing.

Starting with 4.1 (page 16) we learn that, “The 2008 Welsh Government* projections indicate the need (my italics) for around 8,500 new units in Denbighshire between 2008 and 2023.” The council argued for a lower figure on the grounds that more recent statistics showed a reduced need. The inspectors would have none of it, and their response was a gem of officialese that can be found in the panel (click to enlarge). In essence, it says, ‘Yes, the council is quite right; but we shall still insist on thousands of unnecessary new housing units anyway’. So what are “the objectives and aspirations” that justify the Planning4.8 Inspectorate ignoring the council’s plea? We are told that Denbighshire has an ageing population – or “aging” according to the inspectors – with more deaths than births, which would result in a declining population unless young people moved in to the county. Let us examine this claim.

Denbighshire, like many other parts of Wales, has an ageing population due to the lack of a healthy and balanced economy. Worsened by tourism creating few worthwhile jobs for locals while attracting retirees and elderly people. This can be remedied, according to the inspectors, with a building programme to attract a younger population from outside of the county. But wait! if the lack of jobs forces many young people to move away, where are the jobs for this younger population moving in? Well, most of the jobs will remain where they are now, in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire. For what the inspectors are really talking about is attracting a commuter population. (Apart from the riff-raff being dumped in the coastal ghettoes.) This explains why the bulk of the planned new housing is close to the A55. Moving on, what do messrs Thickett and Thomas have to say on the Welsh language?

You may not have noticed – few have – that Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) has started a campaign demanding that the Welsh language be a material consideration in planning matters. The inspectors address the very same issue, and produce another little gem of officialese (click panel to enlarge). What this says (again, in essence) is, ‘We shall always find a reason to ignore the Welsh language’. But there is sugar on the pill with the following assurance (yup, in essence), ‘Even though we are doing our best to kill off your language, and your very identity, we shallLDP Welsh Language 2 disguise this atrocity with Welsh street names in the new developments’. The kind of cheap and meaningless cosmeticism that has satisfied language (non-)campaigners in recent decades.

The answer to Denbighshire’s “aging” population is not an unending programme of house building but a healthy and balanced local economy to stabilise and grow the indigenous population. Coupled with a presumption against those housing developments designed to attract elderly buyers from outside Wales. These are hardly radical demands when Welsh identity is under threat in a way it never has been before. An assault that if it showed itself with the ugly visage of overt oppression would be resisted; but when it sidles up behind the mask of ‘development’ and ‘economic activity’, then too many are fooled. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled any more. There are too many areas where we Welsh are already in a minority. It’s time to say, ‘Thus far and no further’. Speak out and don’t allow the colonisation of our homeland to be brushed under the carpet any longer.

Now is the time to do it. I say that because for years the Planning Inspectorate has had everything its own way, It has browbeaten our local authorities with questionable statistics produced by in-house statisticians demanding thousands upon thousands of new homes Wales doesn’t need. Demands then mouthed obediently for them by those traitorous buffoons down Cardiff docks. The game is up. No one can persist in arguing that Denbighshire needs 8,500 new homes to meet a population increase of 4,134, and a household size of 2.31, without admitting to a colonisation strategy.

Make a start by writing to Denbighshire County Council arguing against the plan for a new town of 1,700 homes next to Bodelwyddan. (Many councillors and council employees will be glad to hear from you.) Send an e-mail to planning@denbighshire.gov.uk or write to the Planning Department, Caledfryn, Smithfield Road, Denbigh LL16 3RJ. Why not also contact the Planning Inspectorate at their Welsh outpost: either e-mail wales@pins.gsi.gov.uk, or write to, The Planning Inspectorate, Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ. Tell them you know what their game is, and from now on their ethnocidal strategy will be opposed.

* Talking here of “the Welsh Government projections” is rather naughty. The figures were produced by the Knowledge and Analytical Services which, like the Planning Inspectorate, has a few staff based in Cardiff, pretends it answers to the ‘Welsh’ Government, but is in reality part of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.

Mar 032014
 

In a number of recent posts – work back from here – I have criticised the projections made by the Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS), a unit based in Cardiff but answering to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in London. These projections have raised questions as to their reliability and true purpose, especially when used by the Planning Inspectorate (an ‘executive agency’ of the same DCLG) to force on our local authorities tens of thousands of new homes for which there is no perceptible Welsh demand. We have thankfully reached the stage where no matter how abstruse the subject matter, or obtuse some of our politicians, it is now difficult for anyone to justify most of the new housing demanded.

Household SizeIn particular, I sought to explain the significance of household size; that is, how many individuals make up a household. Because linking household size with projected increases in population is the basis for determining how many new homes will be needed.

The KAS had previously projected a household size for 2008 of 2.27 reducing to 2.02 by 2033, with a figure for 2011 of 2.23. The Census showed that the figure for 2011 was in fact 2.31. Which meant that the KAS had to revise its figures, which now project household size reducing from 2.31 in 2011 to 2.23 in 2026 (and 2.18 in 2036). (See KAS table, click to enlarge.) Quite a difference across Wales. As I said in an earlier post: “This difference of .08 (for 2011) may seem unimportant . . . until you remember that it equates to 46,764 dwellings and (x 2.31) a population of 108,025. To put that into perspective, at the 2011 Census there were just 31,600 households in Ceredigion”. The KAS document can be read below.

Download (PDF, 317KB)

The projected population levels have also been brought down. The figure now being quoted, for 2012 to 2037, is for an increase in Wales’ population of just 247,000. To give some idea of the recalculation involved, just two years earlier the same statisticians were projecting a population increase of 363,000 between 2010 and 2035.

So we see that in a matter of two years the projected population increase is down and the household size is up, which must result in far fewer dwellings being needed over the next 25 years than was previously argued for. A simple calculation would suggest that over that period, and by dividing population increase by household size, Wales will need something like 112,000 new dwellings. Obviously there are other factors to be taken into account that will increase that figure, but one thing’s for sure – Wales does not need anything like the figure of 331,168 new dwellings being bandied about by Carl Sargeant as recently as last autumn. It’s time for a re-think.

Nowhere is this re-think more needed than in Denbighshire. (I know I bang on a bit, but I’ve got a soft spot for Denbighshire, though not its ruined coast, obviously.) The clip below from the BBC (click to enlarge) tells us that last year Denbighshire was forced by a Planning Inspectorate inspector to build 8,500 new homes in the LDP covering the period 2006 to 2021. Yet according to the latest figures (2011) produced by the Knowledge and Analytical Services the county’s population will increase by only 4,134 between 2011 and 2021. Yippee! Everybody will have two homes!

Clearly, the new housing for Denbighshire is overwhelmingly speculative building. Which also goes a long way to explaining the plans for Flintshire and Wrecsam. This is the Mersey-Dee conspiracy in operation. Our north east being used to protect property values in Wilmslow, Prestbury and elsewhere by directing the less well-heeled commuters for Liverpool and Manchester over the border, helped by estate agents advertising properties in Wrecsam as ‘WesDenbighshiret Cheshire’.

This helps explain the anomaly of the KAS projecting huge percentage increases in the numbers living alone, and childless (elderly) couples – groups that would obviously need one- and two-bedroom properties – to justify the large numbers of new dwellings needed . . . yet after ‘consultations’ with the Planning Inspectorate and the Home Builders Federation what emerges is a deluge of planning applications for three- and four-bedroom houses!

All of which makes the motives of those arguing for extravant numbers of new dwellings deeply suspect. Greedy developers cannot be entirely blamed. Which is why I suspect there are darker motives at work; essentially an attempt to change an area’s – and eventually a country’s – character, identity, and loyalty. I may be right, I may be wrong; but it is now established beyond any doubt that the figures and projections used to intimidate Welsh councils into building homes we don’t need were most definitely wrong. Which means that the Local Development Plans are discredited. All must be scrapped.

No new development plans should be drawn up until we have had local government reorganisation. There is no reason to delay this reorganisation any longer, nor is there any good reason to get it wrong (again) by insisting that it can only be done by mergers within existing boundaries, or that the proposed new councils must stick to police force or health board boundaries. Five years from now we could have a national police force and just one health board for the whole country.

But while the future is always difficult to discern, the past, and the statistics produced in recent years by the Knowledge and Analytical Services – the figures that informed the Local Development Plans – are glaringly clear – and they are wrong! To continue as if they were right, and that nothing has changed, would be further proof of the “darker motives” I referred to above.

Jan 192014
 

As regular readers will be aware, I have recently focused on planning and housing in Wales, more specifically, the data being used to forecast how many new homes Wales will ‘need’ over the next couple of decades. What I have learnt is that the forecasts produced in the name of the ‘Welsh’ Government bear little relation to the data supplied by the Office for National Statistics nor to any genuine Welsh need. This is because those producing the forecasts are serving agendas that have nothing to do with meeting Wales’ housing needs.

Before proceeding, a brief recap might save you having to refer to recent posts too regularly. The raw data is, as I’ve mentioned, produced by the ONS. This comes in the form of the 2011 census findings and subsequent population projections. The ONS however does not produce household projections – i.e. the number of new homes that will need to be built – this is “sourced” to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. In Wales, household projections are made by a unit calling itself Knowledge and Analytical Services, which answers to the DCLG in London. These figures are then used by the Planning Inspectorate, an ‘executive agency’ of the DCLG. Both claim to have some separate Welsh existence, and to answer to the ‘Welsh’ Government. This is absolute bollocks.

Carl SargeantThe figures produced by the KAS and PI underpin the Local Development Plans currently being forced through and also the Housing (Wales) Bill (see recent posts) which deals specifically with social and rented housing. This means that all plans for new housing in Wales are concocted by civil servants answering to a UK / England government department. These machinations are then presented as a fait accompli to Carl Sargeant, the ‘Welsh’ Government Minister for Housing and Regeneration, whose role in the whole squalid affair is limited to saying what civil servants tell him to say.

On January 5th I wrote to the Stats Housing unit in Cardiff asking how a projected population increase (ONS) of 357,000 between 2008 and 2033 could explain a need for 331,168 extra households being predicted by KAS, bearing in mind that the projected household size doesn’t fall below 2.0. This is even more difficult to explain when we remember that both projections, household size and household numbers, are made by the same people. Read the exchange below or click here to download it.

As you can see, the response came from a Tony Whiffen, who works for the ‘Demography, Heritage and Equalities Statistics unit of the Knowledge and Analytical Services unit of the ‘Welsh’ Government. My first thought was, ‘Seeing as demographic change in Wales invariably means the destruction of Welsh identity and heritage you have to be a real joker to link demography and heritage like that’. Anyway, Mr Whiffen’s defence seems to be that household projections are accounted for by a) predicted levels of in-migration; b) a great increase in the number of (i) people living alone or (ii) childless couples; and c) a big increase in the number of elderly people. This is supposed to explain the increase of 331,168 new households for a projected population increase of only 357,000. Now, you can accept that, or you can – like me – be a little more sceptical.

Because if Mr Whiffen is right, and the Planning Inspectorate acts on his group’s predictions, then most of the new properties planned for Wales would be one- and two-bedroom properties, bungalows and flats. Yet Mr Whiffen’s argument is fatally undermined by the Planning Inspectorate and its Local Development Plans when we see, in Carmarthen, Bodelwyddan and all over the country, schemes for thousands of new three- and four-bedroom houses, schools, and other amenities for a more ‘balanced’ population.

In the final paragraph of Mr Whiffen’s e-mail he admits that, Since then (the 2008 projections) the 2011 Census has shown that average household size has not fallen as much as projected . . . we are currently working on a new set of household projections and these will take into account the results of the 2011 Census. These will be based on the 2011-based Local Authority Population Projections for Wales and are due to be published in February.” Which looks promising, until we remember . . .

1/ These new figures will be compiled by the same people – Knowledga and Analytical Services – that wants us to believe in a population increase attributable almost entirely to people living alone. Telling us that while we can trust the data produced by the ONS the same cannot be said of those using the reputation of the ONS to make insane extrapolations.

2/ Mr Whiffen says that “we are currently working on a new set of household projections  . . . based on the 2011-based Local Authority Population Projections for Wales”, which predict a population increase for Wales of 269,777 between 2011 and 2036. But why use the 2011-based figures rather than the more recent – and reliable – ONS figures of 2012? Simple. The 2011 figures are of course the work of the KAS and predict a higher increase in population.

THE TRUTHOwen Jones

Local Development Plans and the Housing (Wales) Bill have little to do with housing (certainly with housing us Welsh), and all to do with attracting into Wales as many English settlers as possible. It is part of a wider colonisation strategy. Why? Well, this has been happening in one form or another since the national awakening of the 1960s, but it took on extra urgency when we voted for devolution, twice. With Scotland voting on independence in September it becomes essential for our masters to ‘secure’ Wales. There is no better way of doing this – proven throughout history – than by populating a territory with one’s own people.

What is sad is that many Welsh will be willing participants in this process, for a number of reasons. One is Owen Jones, a director at Boyer Planning. According to British Bullshit in the Colony of Wales, aka BBC Wales, plans have been submitted to Denbighshire county council by Barwood Land and Estates to build 1,700 new homes near Bodelwyddan. Boyer Planning acts as ‘advisers’ to Barwood (who, despite what the BBC Wales report says, are based in Northampton not Cardiff).

Though let me make it absolutely clear that I am in awe of Owen Jones. For what I have quoted in the second paragraph of the panel reveals a talent for bare-faced lying that takes my breath away. Anyone who can keep a straight face while saying that trebling the size of Bodelwyddan will not change it is a man to be watched. Very carefully.

Because Welsh identity is under threat from so many quarters, defending who and what we are must take precedence over everything else. These current housing plans are a deliberate assault on our identity. They seek to make Wales less Welsh. They are another step in the ongoing process of assimilating Wales into England. They must be fought by anyone who cares about Welsh nationhood.

From now on Wales must plan for no more housing than we Welsh need. Housing plans must not be based on earlier, and undesirable, levels on immigration. And they should certainly not be formulated to encourage downsizers, commuters, white flighters or any other category from England. Fight these plans! Make Bodelwyddan a new Tryweryn!

Lose this fight and everything is lost. 

Jan 022014
 

Following on from my previous post, a few more things need to be said about the way those we elect and, perhaps more importantly, those we do not elect, plan how many new dwellings will be built in Wales in the next couple of decades.

In that previous post I wrote of Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration, and his assertion that the number of households in Wales would increase by 323,009 between 2008 and 2033. The StatsWales figures quoted by Carl Sargeant predict a decrease in household size in this period from 2.27 persons to 2.02, and taking an average of 2.12 (2020), this ‘translates’ into a population increase of some 685,000. Though the most recent (2012) population projections from StatsWales predict an increase of just 247,00 between 2012 and 2037. How do we make sense of these differing figures?

Though before proceeding it’s worth remembering that there is no exact or direct correlation between the increase in the number of households (and therefore the number of dwellings needed) and the increase in population. An increase in the number ofStatsWales Projections households cannot translate exactly into an increase in population. Certain factors come into play, such as more people living on their own, smaller families, or even slum clearance programmes. But I doubt if many older properties in Wales will be demolished and I have used the household size projections provided by StatsWales so, even allowing for more of us living on our own, there seems no way to reconcile the two sets of figures.

Yet the answer lies in the fact that the ‘households’ figure is from 2008 (updated September 29, 2010) whereas the population projection I’ve used is from 2012. Also note that the population projection in 2012 shows a reduction of 116,000 from the projected increase made just two years earlier. (All explained in the panel on the right. Click to enlarge.) Now it stands to reason that if the population projections have been substantially reduced then the number of households projection also needed to be revised, yet this has not been done. With the result that, over the past two or three years, our local authorities have been ordered to plan new dwellings on the basis of discredited data. Worse, those demanding that our councils pass these Local Development Plans knew the figures used to justify those plans were unreliable.

Without, I hope, appearing too personal, I must return to Carl Sargeant for a moment. If you read his letter of November 12th last year to William Powell AM, Chair of the Petitions Committee, you will see that the ‘households’ figure he (Sargeant) had been working with seems to have been an even higher figure than the 323,009 of StatsWales! (LeftSargeant 1, click to enlarge.) But worse, he appears to admit that his officials can’t explain where the figures they’ve been using came from! Can you believe this? So where might Sargeant’s officials have got this insane, and now lost, figure they were using? Thin air is one possibility, but a much more likely source is the Planning Inspectorate, represented in Wales by Richard of Poppleton (see previous post).

To help understand the mismatch in the two sets of figures on a local level, let us look at Denbighshire, where the council is being ordered – by Planning Inspectorate officials – to build thousands of new properties for English commuters much-needed local homes, 7,500 by 2021. According to StatsWales’ 2008-based household projection the number of households in the county will increase, between 2010 and 2021, by 5,972, and this figure is, presumably, being used to justify the building programme. Yet the most recent (2011) StatsWales population projection says that the county will see growth of just 4,134 between 2010 and 2021. There is no sensible way of explaining the same body predicting, for the same area, a greater increase in new households than in total population . . . unless of course, we are dealing with a population that has yet to arrive in Wales?

What we are facing here is a blatant colonisation strategy being implemented by the Planning Inspectorate. A calculated assault on Welsh identity. It is now time for Carl Sargeant and others down Cardiff docks to stop acting as fig leaves for this racist programme – pretending these are their strategies – and to start serving Welsh interests by standing up to cross-border agencies that do not have Welsh interests at heart.

The Local Development Plans were based on what was known to be incorrect information in order to maximise the number of properties available to English buyers and tenants. This colonialist motivation should surely invalidate these LDPs. If the ‘Welsh’ Government fails to recall the discredited LDPs then this will provide further evidence of the organ grinders and monkeys nature of Welsh political and public life.