Gwynedd LDP

Sep 192017
 

TWENTY YEARS ON

We are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the referendum that gave us devolution. Ron Davies described it at the time as “a process not an event”, but little if any progress has been made.

In yesterday’s Llais y Sais Ron Davies was allowed to explain why he thinks devolution has failed to deliver, why it has not improved the lives of Welsh people. This seems to have been a print version of what he said the day before on radio (06:00) and television (15:26).

Llais y Sais allowed Carwyn Jones to respond, and his response was pathetic; hiding behind the shade of Rhodri Morgan and talking of increased powers rather than addressing the point raised by Ron Davies, which was that Wales is worse off today – in terms of wealth, health, education and other indices – than she was 20 years ago ergo devolution has failed to deliver. Few outside the Bay Bubble would disagree with Ron Davies.

But lurking in the shadows I perceive another threat, an existential threat to the continuing existence of Wales. A threat made easier to carry out because devolution has failed and because so many people in certain parts of Wales feel that devolution has delivered nothing for their area.

FERRY ‘CROSS THE MERSEY . . . AND MOVING TO BANGOR

Unlike Ireland and Scotland Wales does not have geography or topography on her side, we have a long border with England  and all but one of England’s major population centres are within two hours travelling time of Wales.

This plan for a ‘North Wales Metro’ rather gives the game away (click to enlarge)

Which made it relatively easy for Roman, Norman and English invaders to detach the more fertile, lowland areas from our control, largely confining our ancestors to the uplands. That Welsh nationhood survived was largely due to the fact that Wales had little else invaders coveted.

This helped preserve Welsh identity until the arrival of industrialisation, which impacted on areas that were overwhelmingly Welsh in character, and while the new-found prosperity naturally attracted immigrants these were largely assimilated. But time, an English education system, the resultant decline of the Welsh language, colonisation, tourism, lack of national leadership and other factors have taken their toll, to the point where plans are now being drawn up to finally do away with Wales altogether by dismembering our country.

Of course, these plans will never be called by their true name, they will always be presented as being ‘beneficial to Wales’.

Let’s start in the north east. The decline started with the arrival of the railways, and with them mass tourism. The Rhyl station of the Chester & Holyhead Railway Co opened on 1 May 1848. In the more industrial areas closer to the border Anglicisation took a different form with the importation of English workers and the banning of the Welsh language. Perhaps the most notorious example were the events that provoked the Mold Riots of 1869.

Despite it all, the north east remained Welsh, but it was inevitable that the factors I’ve mentioned eventually took their toll. The Flintshire of Daniel Owen, David Lloyd and Emlyn Williams is gone, replaced by what can often be mistaken for semi-rural suburbs of Merseyside.

Rhyl, the once-bustling holiday resort, is now a dumping ground for English criminals, with the town’s streets haunted by drug-addicts and their dealers. (The only plus would appear to be that the gangsters are killing each other quite regularly.) The same fate has befallen smaller communities on the north coast. And as this chaos wreaks havoc on Welsh communities Welsh politicians have done nothing.

So we arrive at the point where someone asks, ‘Oh dear, what can we do to ‘revitalise’ this region? I know! we’ll have closer cross-border co-operation.’ This was certainly the recommendation of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group’s Final Report, the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood.

Who is Elizabeth Haywood? You don’t remember voting for this woman who wants to dismember Wales? Of course you never voted for her, nobody did; she’s Mrs Peter Hain, or Lady Hain, I suppose, since the Orange Man was ennobled. (You really should get all silly ideas about democracy and accountability out of your head, they’ll only confuse you in one-party Wales.)

The Mersey Dee Alliance to which Lady Hain refers is a body that has been in existence for some time, though it seems to have a strange idea of Welsh geography, or to go by this map that appeared on the MDA website it doesn’t accept the existence of Wales at all.

The prospect of our north east (or the whole north) being swallowed up by north west England would be bad enough, but as I explained last month in Gwynedd LDP, and Wider Considerations, the threat is not restricted to the old unitary authority of Clwyd.

Nor is this encroachment, this gradual takeover, confined to the north. If anyone was in any doubt about that, then statements made over the past few days should have made the threat very clear.

ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE

One of the great conundrums of Welsh politics concerns the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and boils down to the question: ‘Is the Secretary of State for Wales the voice of Wales in the cabinet or the voice of the cabinet in Wales?’

Different Secretaries of State have provided different answers, but the current incumbent of that post, Alun Cairns MP, is most definitely – and perhaps more emphatically than any predecessor – the voice of the cabinet in Wales. Little more than a mouthpiece, but because he is a mouthpiece, we can more easily tell the plans of those who put the words into his mouth.

The thinking in London towards Wales now seems to come in two parts – gradually undo devolution and then dismember Wales.

On the first element of that dual-thrust approach I call to the witness stand Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales. The heading gives a clue to the content in “Brexit: Carwyn Jones objects to ‘hijack of devolved powers'”,  or “Ministers in London are trying to get the power to rewrite laws made in Wales – Carwyn Jones”, and a host of similar articles to be found on the internet.

Just about everyone outside of the Conservative and Unionist Party believes that Brexit will provide the excuse for Westminster to a) withhold powers repatriated from the EU, and b) ‘retrieve’ powers already devolved. While those inside the party know it but won’t openly admit it.

Even so, the clues come thick and fast. Alun Cairns was given a lot of space in Llais y Sais – with David Williamson serving as his amanuensis – to promote the idea of Cardiff detaching itself from Wales and linking up with Bristol in a Severnside region. (For some reason I can’t find the piece on the WalesOnline site.)

To ram home the message Llais y Sais chipped in with an editorial, one that went beyond Bristol to “the string of cities along the M4” which of course take us to London.

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I was so vexed by what I read, and incensed by the lies spouted by Cairns, that I took the unusual step of putting out a short post on my Facebook page.

On Monday morning Cairns maintained his assault on honesty with the claim that too much power is centralised in Cardiff . . . and this, remember, is the voice of the Conservative and Unionist Party that wants to centralise even more power in London!

Some might be tempted to agree with him, until they remember there’s little real power in Cardiff because Wales lacks an effective form of devolution. Of course, most people would agree that Cardiff gets more than its fair share of investment and jobs, and it was this resentment that Cairns hoped to tap into.

But let’s take him at his word. He says he wants to devolve power to the regions, he even talks of elected mayors. So would Wil Pughe of Llanfair Caereinion, like his counterparts in London and Manchester, have power over policing? Would Wil – as he has long desired – have control over local PCSO Cerys Evans?

Having one day advocated a Severnside region Cairns pushes on with a back-of-a-fag-packet suggestion masking a deeper message – ‘Devolution isn’t working for most of Wales. In fact, devolution isn’t working at all – let’s get rid of it.’

“Give power to the regions” is something trotted our regularly by the Tories, but it displays no real concern for the regions at all, it’s just a method of doing away with devolution and undermining our sense of nationhood.

DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED

What of the areas left outside the shining megalopolis of ManPool and the ‘string of cities’ from Cardiff to London?

The remainder of the northern coastal strip along the A55, or those areas not being used to house drug addicts and criminals from over the border, or serving as geriatric ghettoes, will become commuter communities, even over the bridge onto Ynys Môn, as I found out by accident.

For when trawling the internet I often turn up things I wasn’t looking for, such as the map below, produced by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. They know that there are three Strategic Development Areas (or Strategic Planning Areas) for Wales, the two city regions and the A55 Corridor. I found a number of other references to the A55 Corridor: here’s one, here’s another.

All the sources tell us that these three SDAs/SPAs will be brought into existence by the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on July 6.

click to enlarge

So why, two years on, are the chattering classes only talking of the two city regions? Is the A55 Corridor a dirty secret being proceeded with by stealth? Interestingly, one feature demanded by a SDA/SPA is joint Local Development Plans, which might explain why Gwynedd and Ynys Môn were recently required to produce one.

The area between the A55 Corridor and the urban south is to become one vast recreation and retirement area for England, offering everything from granny farms and zip wires to Cheshire-sur-Mer (Abersoch), the Birmingham Riviera (Cardigan Bay), and Bear Grylls parting suckers from their money with his ‘get-muddy-and-pretend-you’re-in-the-SAS!’ bollocks.

With assorted ‘Care’ bodies, probation companies and housing associations taking in England’s decrepit, dysfunction, delinquent and downright criminal. For housing ex-cons pays well.

The Valleys are to endure yet more managed decline, the Swansea region will be offered scraps from Cardiff’s table, while Cardiff itself expands and grows fat through exploiting its capital status but simultaneously playing the English provincial city, increasingly linked to Bristol and “the string of cities along the M4”.

Cardiff being a player in Severnside will be welcomed by those Cardiff politicians, such as Russell Goodway, who have always wanted Cardiff to enjoy all the benefits of being capital of Wales while looking down their noses at everything Welsh.

Result: Wales enfeebled, fragmented and exploited as never before. There can only be one outcome.

WHO CAN WE TRUST?

It should go without saying that we cannot trust an individual, or a political party, that has allowed this situation to develop.

Wales is being assaulted from all sides, yet Carwyn Jones may be motivated by loss of prestige rather than the loss of nationhood, or maybe it’s the thought of his party losing its vast network of patronage that moves him to stand alongside Nicola Sturgeon.

The Tories of course are driving this project and they’ll be supported by Ukip. As for the Lib Dems, well, who cares? Which leaves only Plaid Cymru.

Seeing as the destruction of Wales has little to do with Donald Trump, refugees, or trans-gender toilets, and is only tangentially connected with another of Plaid’s current obsessions, Brexit, it would be unrealistic to expect any opposition from Plaid Cymru.

In addition, Plaid Cymru is unsuited for the coming fight because, being a civic nationalist party that welcomes everyone (especially those with ‘ishoos’) – and by so doing supports the colonialist system that sees Wales exporting talent and importing problems – it is psychologically incapable of standing up in a struggle in which it will have to be said, ‘No, you’re not dumping any more of your problems in our country!’

And yet, one doesn’t even need to be a nationalist, or a believer in independence, to become involved in the forthcoming struggle. All that’s needed is the belief that Wales is a nation, with a defined and accepted territory, and that both must be respected.

But our enemies are gathering, they’ve laid their plans, they’ve even told us their plans, so we must resist.

Are you up for the coming fight?

♦ end ♦

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.

click to enlarge

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.

click to enlarge

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.

click to enlarge

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 ♦