Planning Inspectorate (Wales)

Jul 022015
 

In recent years I have published many posts arguing that devolution is a sham. That’s because Wales is run by departments of the UK government in London. Decisions made by these departments are then implemented by civil servants based in Wales. These civil servants are, invariably, ‘advisers’ to  ‘Welsh Ministers’, but the true relationship is more like puppeteer and puppet.

A perfect example, and one that I have dealt with more than once, is the Planning Inspectorate. We are asked to believe that Wales has its own Planning Inspectorate, based in Cardiff, answering to the ‘Welsh’ Government. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate, responsible for forcing Planning Inspectoratetens of thousands of unneeded new dwellings on Welsh local authorities (in order to encourage English colonisation) is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, with a branch office in Cardiff. The Planning Inspectorate takes orders from London; and gives orders to Cardiff.

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This situation of Wales being run by civil servants on behalf of the London government has been in place as long as we’ve had devolution. Usually it just rumbles along in the background, unnoticed, but recently Wales has seen two very important pieces of legislation that have exposed this system as never before.

One new law is the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Now while this legislation plays to the gallery with tough talk on private landlords, protecting vulnerable tenants, etc., these are distractions from the real purpose of the Bill, which is to confirm beyond any lingering doubt that social housing in Wales is now part of an Englandandwales system. Which means that someone who qualifies for social housing anywhere in England can be allocated a property in Wales. A policy so insidious and damaging that housing associations, especially in rural areas, are now building and buying properties – with Welsh public funding – for which there is no local demand!

The Housing (Wales) Act contains thirty-nine references to ‘England’ By comparison, the Housing (Scotland) Bill has not one. Though absent from the Welsh Bill is any reference to the Welsh language, providing further proof that this is ‘Welsh’ legislation designed to serve England’s interests, as is so much else done by the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Such as the funding that has gone into the Deeside Industrial Park, that runs almost up to the border, providing jobs for north west England and keeping the resultant mess, noise and traffic out of leafy Cheshire. Then there’s our failing NHS, especially in the north, which the UK prime minister and local Tory politicians have capitalised on, yet only a ‘racist’ would make the obvious connection between a failing health service and many tens of thousands of elderly English people moving into the affected region.

And the impression given that Wales is doing things differently, being tougher on private landlords, is just so much flim-flam, as I discovered a couple of days ago when making enquiries about the regulation of private landlords. Here’s the link, but the screen capture below makes it clear enough that – despite the Housing (Wales) Act – England and Wales are covered by the same legislation, but not Scotland.

Private Landlords

The second piece of legislation worth highlighting is the Planning (Wales) Bill. This again was designed to bring Wales into line with England. As was made clear by the (now defunct) Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in its December 2013 Newsletter. Unfortunately the link provided in the newsletter is no longer working, so I can’t offer it to you, but among the things it said was ” . . . many of the proposed reforms resonate with those introduced in England.” And later, “Again reflecting change in England . . . “.

As might be expected, in its original form, this legislation also neglected to take any account of the Welsh language. That’s because, as with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, it is English legislation, drawn up by English civil servants, for England, who neither understand nor care about Wales, who then stick ‘(Wales)’ in the title and tell some ‘Welsh Minister’ to run with  it.

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Those clowns down Cardiff docks masquerading as the ‘Welsh’ Government must know what’s going on, this explains why so many of them are reluctant to give interviews to explain or defend the legislation they’ve announced – they don’t understand it, and they don’t understand it because they had no input to it. But in return they are allowed – perhaps even encouraged – to introduce pet schemes for the sole purpose of giving the impression they’re in charge.Puppet regime

For who can forget the rejoicing – and the global media attention – that attended the abolition of ferret licences back in 2006. While the Zeppelin service between Penclawdd and Amlwch that took off in 2010 was universally welcomed . . . especially in Penclawdd and Amlwch. Now I hear that next year, just before the election, our ‘Welsh’ Government plans to bring in a vote-winning policy of free toothbrushes for the over 90s. Verily! our cup runneth over.

OK, so I’m taking the piss, but it’s publicity-grabbing and largely valueless legislation such as free prescriptions that the ‘Welsh’ Government is allowed to introduce as a reward for acting as puppets. These ‘giveaways’ are then used to distract us from the more weighty English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ in the name that is constantly being pushed through by civil servants of whom we know nothing.

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To conclude . . . The post-devolution era sees a regular stream of England-only legislation in areas that have been ‘devolved’. What happens is, that after a decent interval, and in the interests of an undeclared policy of ‘harmonisation’, this England-only legislation is re-packaged with ‘(Wales)’ in the name and passes through the Assembly. To disguise what’s being done the re-packaged law may differ in a few minor details, but never in anything of substance. End result? The same laws in both countries for the convenience of the Planning Inspectorate and countless other Englandandwales organisations.

After sixteen years of devolution it is clear that Wales is not allowed to have separate legislation that is meaningfully different to England’s unless the ‘Welsh’ law actually benefits England. This is the sham of devolution, the polar opposite to what it was promised devolution would deliver, and it explains how ‘devolution’ is helping assimilate Wales into England more effectively than the Fraser Welshpre-devolution system, for now it’s easier to introduce Wales-specific laws to achieve that assimilation. With the added attraction that because these laws have ‘(Wales)’ in the name too many people are misled into believing they’re designed to serve Welsh interests.

And yet if you think about it, there should be nothing here to surprise anyone. Since the introduction of this non-devolution, implementing the ethnocidal planning policies of a non-existent ‘Welsh’ Planning Inspectorate, the Notional Assembly has been under the control of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. So we have a sham devolution run by a fake party, for a country that will soon exist nowhere outside of our imaginations.

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 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.

Apr 012014
 

‘Who he?’, I hear you implore. The answer is that Mr Poppleton is the esteemed head of the Planning Inspectorate in Wales, that wonderful agency that not only grants us wind farms but also forces our councils to build thousands of new homes for people who haven’t yet thought of moving to Wales.

Regular readers of my bloRichard Poppletong will know that over the past few months I have given quite a bit of coverage to the Planning Inspectorate. I believe I have established that, despite claiming to be somehow under the control of the ‘Welsh’ Government, the Planning Inspectorate is in fact an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Further, the Inspectorate is run on an Englandandwales basis with – for appearanceʽ sake – a branch office in Cardiff. To mistake this for a separate, Welsh organisation (as we are encouraged to) would be a grave mistake. Mr Poppleton and his agents carry out the wishes of their masters in London. Neither tolerates any Welsh interference.

Perhaps Mr Poppleton, or someone, has been reading my blog; for I learn that the man himself is currently on a tour of all twenty-two Welsh local authorities in the hope of ‘explaining’ how the Planning Inspectorate is organised and how it operates. To aid him he has a little PowerPoint presentation, so here I offer you the chance to go through the document; while beneath it I have selected a few points I think deserve to be highlighted. (To open the document in a separate window and follow page by numbered page, right click here.)

Download (PDF, 114KB)

P4        Curious wording for the first bullet point, but note that it makes no claim to a separate Welsh framework, merely “a section based in Cardiff dealing with Welsh matters”.

The second bullet point is very interesting. Are we expected to believe that the “planning inspectors” are freelance, independent of the Planning Inspectorate? Who recruits them? Who do they report to? Who pays them? How would a planning inspector keep canis lupus from his portal if he fell foul of the Planning Inspectorate?

P5        This page desperately tries to pretend that planning in Wales is determined by the ‘Welsh’ Government. But the only planning officials in Wales are those working for the Planning Inspectorate which, as we know, is an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.

Also worth remembering is that “Welsh policy” is invariably – and increasingly – the same law as England with ‘(Wales)’ inserted into the name of the Bill / Act. A perfect example would be the Housing (Wales) Bill currently snaking its way through the Notional Assembly. The Bill makes thirty-nine references to ‘England’. The Housing (Scotland) Bill makes not one reference to our shared neighbour. There’s a message there!

P6        Again, in bullet point 1, weird syntax. (Is this a translation?) But note, “supported by the administration in Cardiff” but not ‘answering to the administration’. Suggesting yet again that the ‘Welsh’ Government merely provides office space.

Bullet point 2 confirms what I’ve been told by a number of people. Planning inspectors are brought in from England to adjudicate on matters in a country they know nothing about.

P8        Ah, posterity, what bullshit is spouted in thy name! The Edmund Burke appeal to “those who are to be born”, a weapon regularly found in a dissembler’s armoury.

P9        Very interesting first bullet point. And note the underlining. Could almost be a reference to social engineering. For wasn’t the Nazi lebensraum policy about ‘shaping’ eastern Europe?

P13      “Co-operation and collaboration”. Interesting, this. I have no objection in principle to cross-border commuting, it’s commonplace on the continent and elsewhere, however . . . I suspect that ‘housing market areas’ and ‘travel to work areas’ are used here to justify excessive house building for the benefit of English commuters in the north east, Powys and Gwent.

P14      Ah! posterity, again. Though isn’t ‘constituents’ a word from the political rather than the planning lexicon? Wouldn’t ‘residents’ or ‘population’ fit better? Is it telling us that tomorrow’s constituents, in large parts of Wales, will not be today’s constituents, or their descendants?

P15      “Those yet to come”. Enough posterity, already!

P21      “Plans and policies are not to be slavishly followed without thought and local application”. Of course not. As Denbighshire found out, when a planning inspector went back and demanded yet more unnecessary housing.

P26      Translation of bullet point 3: ‘Local knowledge is OK, but you must have outside experts like our inspectors who can’t even pronounce the name of the community they’re wrecking.’

P27/28  Explains why so many damaging schemes succeed – the law is weighted against anyone – individual, interest group or local authority – engaging in what will almost always be decided is vexatious obstruction, and they will have to pay the cost(s).

P29      “Sheer volume not enough”. If everybody in an area was to object to a scheme their views could be disregarded by a “decision maker”, i.e. a planning inspector.

P31      “National policies”. Which nation?

P33      “S106”. Planning conditions or sweeteners, such as a local occupancy stipulation or the developer building a highway or other community benefit.

P34      “S73” Can be used to undo S106 conditions, and can also be used to grant retrospective planning permission. Which could mean in practice that a scheme is given planning permission on the understanding that there will be local occupancy clauses attaching to all or some of the properties, but that this is then overturned by an S73 ruling. Or, to be utterly cynical, those applying for any scheme could use the S106 local occupancy clause as a ploy to gain planning approval while knowing that once approval is granted they will apply for an S73. Worse, those granting planning consent could also know this.

P35      The figures speak for themselves; though it should be remembered that even though almost two-thirds of appeals are dismissed this does not take into account the many who would like to appeal but are deterred by the prohibitive costs.

P36      The English Planning Inspectorate is to be given even more power in Wales.

P37      A blueprint for taking more power from local authorities. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when the power is to be transferred to the Planning Inspectorate, an unelected foreign agency, then it’s definitely a bad thing. Note the implication of bullet point 3. “(Welsh) Minister (though PINS) to administer and decide the largest development applications”. In other words, the Planning Inspectorate will make decisions and get some dumbo down Cardiff docks to make the announcements.

Also, “poorly performing” Local Planning Authorities – i.e. not passing enough planning applications – are to be stripped of their power. This threat coupled with the punitive costs involved will emasculate any local authority that refuses to nod through virtually every application that comes before it. Plus, of course, the LDP.

P38      Reinforcing the threat of the Planning Inspectorate taking over responsibility for planning in Wales using the puppet regime down Cardiff docks as a human shield and mouthpiece.

Planning Bill

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Planning in Wales (I nearly made the mistake of saying ‘Welsh planning’!) is undergoing big changes, and few outside of the ‘opposition’ appreciate the full implications. Though the building industry understands, as this piece illustrates. (Note how the quote from Carl Sargeant makes yet another bloody reference to “future generations”!) The Bill dealt with in the article I’ve linked to is the Planning (Wales) Bill, available here. You can read it yourself, but this piece from the Planning Inspectorate media centre might tell you all you need to know. Again, let me pick out what I consider to be the salient points.

  1. The ‘Welsh’ Government is to take powers from local planning authorities; that is, your local council. As I said above, no bad thing in itself, given the record of many councils, but with larger and possibly more efficient councils on the horizon why do it now? Or is that the reason?
  2. Local development plans would be “subject to refinement”. In other words, councils could be told to build even more unnecessary new homes than had been agreed in the LDP.
  3. Planning applications could by-pass local planning authorities and be made direct to the ‘Welsh’ Government (fronting for the Planning Inspectorate). Worrying, and would this apply to National Parks?
  4. Despite the comforting reference to Scotland the Planning Inspectorate does not operate there. It is an Englandandwales body.
  5. Though it talks of the ‘Welsh’ Government this legislation officially hands control over virtually all planning in Wales to the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.
  6. The Planning Inspectorate article makes it clear, more than once, that when this legislation is enacted the chances of successfully appealing against any of the Inspectorate’s decisions will be almost zero.
  7. “Major changes are afoot”. Yes, indeed. And all for the worse.

Another Bill currently going through the stages is the Housing (Wales) Bill. I have written a number of posts on this subject, work back from here. The only publicity this Bill is getting concentrates on the provisions for tighter regulation of private landlords. But the Bill covers the entire rented sector, and makes clear that our social housing providers – councils and housing associations – will in future co-operate fully with their English counterparts. This means that anyone qualifying for a home in England will automatically qualify in Wales . . . even if they’ve never set foot in Wales.

The consequences are easily predictable. Our less responsible housing associations will go on a building spree knowing they now have an inexhaustible supply of potential tenants in England. These will be described as  ‘vulnerable’ and having ‘needs’. But don’t shed any tears, for these are just euphemisms for problem families, drug addicts, paedophiles, other criminals, the (deliberately) homeless, etc. While this is obviously good news Puppet show, captionfor social housing providers has anyone considered the wider costs of bringing such people into Wales? This post might help. Another consideration is that despite the increase in the social housing stock it will become more difficult for Welsh people to secure social housing because of that inexhaustible supply over the border.

It has become obvious to me in the research I’ve done into the Planning Inspectorate and other agencies that housing and planning is used to attract English colonists with the express intention of weakening and eventually destroying Welsh identity. For the simple and obvious reason that without Welsh identity there can be no political threat to emulate Scotland. That being so, then the counter-measures needed are equally obvious.

We need a five-year residency period before anyone can access social housing, and social housing providers – especially in rural and coastal areas – must be encouraged to buy existing properties (as they were once able to). We need open market housing limited to meeting local need; but more than anything, in the private housing sector we need a mechanism that either reserves a percentage of housing stock for local people, or else financial assistance enabling Welsh people to compete with outside buyers.

This was always about more than housing and planning. They know it; it’s about time we realised it.

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.

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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.

Feb 122014
 

Last night’s Week In Week Out on BBC 1 Wales, presented by Tim Rogers, dealt with long term problems posed by erosion or sea encroachment around our coasts, and came with the stark warning that some communities will have to be abandonded, largely because the cost involved in holding back the sea greatly outweighs the value of what is being protected. (Here is a link to the BBC iPlayer version of the programme.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the communities visited was Fairbourne, which is, like most of the others consigned to ‘managed retreat’, a somewhat artificial settlement, built on land reclaimed for the purposes of tourism and retirement. The Fairbourne Wikipedia page says it all: the area was previously known as Morfa Henddol (morfa = fen or sea marsh) and the outcrop on which today stands the Fairbourne Hotel was known as Ynysfaig (ynys = island). Clearly, our ancestors knew this land alongside the Mawddach estuary for what it was. (And will soon be again.)

Also investigated was that sinkhole for Welsh public funding, Rhyl. There we saw a couple who, to judge by the accents, came from the Birmingham conurbation, had been flooded out of their bungalow and were now living in a trailer home. Tim Rogers asked if anything had been mentioned about flooding when they purchased their property. “No, nothing”, was the reply. Which made me think to myself, ‘If I am a shifty developer or estate agent, selling properties I know are vulnerable to flooding – and almost always to people who don’t know the area – am I going to tell these prospective buyers that their dream home might one day be under six feet of water?’ Of course not. This is clearly a case of caveat emptor.

Down here, on our stretch of the coast, Tywyn’s new sea defences worked excellently . . . though there are some in Tywyn that will never admit this as they harbour an irrational hatred for Gwynedd council and all its works, because it’s a) too Welsh and b) run by the wrong party. They would rather gripe and snipe at everything the council does, however beneficial.

Speaking of gripers and snipers, I hear that part of Aberdyfi golf course has joined Neptune’s realm. Sad though this news may be, there can be no justification for spending Welsh public money to preserve what is a private and exclusive asset. Either the club itself pays for new sea defences or else Nature must Tywyn sea defencesbe allowed to take its course (‘course’ – geddit!), leaving the Ukipistas to find another rendezvous. Further south, Borth and Aberystwyth also featured in Tim Rogers’ investigation. Now, obviously, Aberystwyth must be defended, but how strong is the case for Borth? It certainly seems that land just north of Borth – curiously enough, another golf course! – is to be surrendered.

Though the bigger picture here, especially when we remember the Towyn floods of 1990 and similar events, is that for a century and more we have allowed, even encouraged, the building of new properties on inadequately defended coastal plains and salt marsh, land on which building should never have been allowed. So why did this happen? The fundamental cause is tourism. Since the coming of the railways over 160 years ago English people have visited coastal Wales for their holidays, and this led to the growth of resorts where little or nothing had existed before the arrival of the iron horse. Many of those tourists wished to settle permanently, perhaps retire to, where they had enjoyed their holidays, so new homes were built for them . . . with the inevitable consequences.

If I owned a home in an area being ‘surrendered’ to the sea, I think I would be asking a few questions. Principally, ‘Why was planning permission granted for my property and others when the risk of flooding must have been known?’ Then, perhaps, ‘Do I have a justifiable claim for negligence or culpability against the body that granted planning permission’? (With this of course extending, particularly in the case of local authorities, to successor bodies.) For no matter what we may think of communities like Rhyl, Towyn and Fairbourne, the people suffering from flooding in such places aPuppet show, captionre innocent victims and have, to all intents and purposes, been conned into buying the properties under threat.

So, in the hope of avoiding any repetition of such miseries, can the puppet show down Cardiff docks, and our local authorities, confirm that no more building will take place in areas that might in future be susceptible to coastal flooding or erosion? (This must also apply to trailer parks and other developments.) More, will these bodies also confirm that any outstanding planning approvals for dwellings in such areas will be revoked? And will the ‘Welsh’ Government also promise us that there will henceforth be a binding national presumption against building any more communities like Towyn and Fairbourne?

Oh, yes, something else that would be very welcome would be a promise from the Planning Inspectorate that in future it will not – in order to follow its over-arching policy of attracting English settlers to Wales – overrule planning bodies that turn down applications for housing in flood-prone areas.

Fairbourne 1868UPDATE 12.03.14: I am indebted to the person who sent me a copy of this 1868 watercolour claiming to be a view across the Mawddach from Barmouth, showing where Fairbourne would eventually be built. You will note that there is nothing there apart from what looks like a temporary structure, perhaps a fisherman’s hut. Suggesting that the locals had better sense than to try to build anything permanent there. (Click to enlarge.)

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.

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 142014
 

Following on from the previous post, here is my response to the Welsh Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government’s Housing (Wales) Bill. The deadline for responses is Friday, so if you want to make a point then do it now, and send it to CELGCommittee@wales.gov.uk.

In case the PDF version below should disappear (as they have a habit of doing) the document should be available here.