National Development Framework

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

Last week the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ produced the first version of the consultation document for its 20-year National Development Framework (NDF). Those of a masochistic bent may read it here.

Should you wish to make your feelings known, then the response form is here.

(Unless otherwise attributed, all images are from the National Development Framework and belong, presumably, to the ‘Welsh Government’.)

The front cover might be a sensible, if unoriginal, place to start.

There we see the Sail Bridge over the Tawe with, on the left, the University of Wales Trinity St David’s new campus. Behind the buildings in the middle distance there’s the Prince of Wales Dock; this is now an area of flats, offices, hotels, restaurants and bars.

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Almost all these were drawn to the area on the promise that the Prince of Wales Dock would become a marina. But the money allocated for the project was used elsewhere by the ‘Welsh Government’. Which means that the shiny new buildings look out onto an expanse of brackish water.

In the article I’ve just linked to you’ll read the decision being defended by the Cardiff-based South Wales Chamber of Commerce, on the grounds that the marina was not the “right priority” for public money. But the money we’re talking about was raised from the sale of land in the area and ‘ring-fenced’ for the PoW Dock.

That contribution tells us a lot about which areas have benefited from devolution and which areas have lost out. Also, who wields influence in 21st century Wales. I mean, why did WalesOnline ask South Wales Chamber of Commerce for a quote?

The NDF document is so self-congratulatory in parts, and elsewhere full of promises that, on reading it, I was reminded of a child’s letter to Father Christmas. You know the kind of thing, ‘Dear Santa, I have been very good this year and I would like . . .’.

Can’t help wondering if a copy of the NDF was posted to Lapland.

Part 1 is the Introduction, and this is what the NDF has to say of itself:

“The NDF is the highest tier of development plan and is focused on issues and challenges at a national scale. Its strategic nature means it does not allocate development to all parts of Wales, nor does it include policies on all land uses. It is a framework which will be built on by Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) at a regional level and Local Development Plans (LDPs) at local authority level.”

Part 2, ‘Wales – An Overview’, begins with this gem.

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All of which is true, no doubt, but it neglects to mention that the population of Wales is ageing faster than the other countries of these islands, and that life expectancy in Wales is falling faster than the other countries, also that in addition to these factors the main reason our population is ageing at such an alarming rate is because people retire to Wales from England.

The 2011 Census told us that in some areas the majority of those in the 65+ age bracket were born in England. In Conwy, just 37.1% of the over 65s were born in Wales. This movement is encouraged by a number of factors, including a care fees threshold of £50k, compared to £23,250 in England.

And then there’s the added incentive of free prescriptions.

This means that the poorest country in the UK, where the population already contains the highest percentage of elderly people, is actively encouraging yet more elderly people to move to Wales.

Figures supplied by ONS. My table. Click to enlarge

This phenomenon obviously puts a strain on health and associated services, which results in funding being diverted from other budgets, such as education. Perhaps it could even be argued that Welsh kids get an inferior education due to retirees from England.

But of course no Welsh politician or civil servant will dare admit this. Worse, they’ll even try to put a positive gloss on this population movement, as I found when I submitted a Freedom of Information request. Here’s an extract from the response.

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An ageing population is viewed as a problem across the developed world. The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, recently declared the issue of a falling birthrate and an ageing population to be “a national crisis”.

So across the world it’s a problem or a crisis, but here in Wales an ageing population is “something positive”. I leave it to you to decide whether the ‘Welsh Government’ doesn’t understand the problem or whether it’s just lying.

The National Development Framework says nothing about limiting or mitigating the effects of this damaging influx. Which could be achieved by reducing the care fee allowance to £10,000 for people who have not lived in Wales for ten years prior to applying for care.

Part 3 is a wish list entitled ‘Outcomes’, eleven in all. ‘Outcomes’, that word so beloved of bullshitters and con artists in government, academe, the third sector and elsewhere.

This is virtue signalling on steroids. Anyone reading it should pause and ask, ‘Why should I believe that the same clowns who have run Wales into the ground over the past 20 years will deliver a land of milk and honey in the future?’

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Only intellectually-challenged Labour supporters and desperate Unionists will believe this. Because, believe me, those who wrote it don’t believe it.

Part 4 is headed, ‘Strategic and Spatial Choices: the NDF Spatial Strategy’. It tells us what’s planned to happen and where; this section contains a bit more ‘meat’.

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It begins by telling us that there are three ‘national growth areas’. These are: Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys; Wrexham and Deeside; Swansea Bay and Llanelli.

The first speaks for itself seeing as the ‘Welsh Government’ and others have been pushing the ‘city region’ idea for decades. Our north east is merging into north west England, an arrangement the ‘Welsh Government’ has helped create by prioritising cross-border links and pouring money into Deeside to create jobs for Merseyside and Cheshire. Which leaves the Swansea area as Wales’ only natural and organic conurbation. And, inevitably, the area most neglected by the ‘Welsh Government’.

A word that crops up throughout the document is ‘sustainability’, often coupled with reference to the Well-being of Future Generations Act. This provides more opportunity to list pious hopes, but it also sets out where investors will be allowed to exploit Wales.

The map on page 42 (and below) shows the areas where wind or solar power is to be allowed. With a few district heat networks in the cities and larger towns. Most of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion seems to be given over to wind and solar farms.

Will there be any room for farming? Click to enlarge

Take out urban areas, national parks, unsuitable terrain, and it seems that most of what remains is to be covered in solar panels and wind turbines.

And then wonder where our ‘National Forest’ will fit in. For on page 35 of the NDF we read, “The Welsh Government has therefore set a target to increase woodland cover in Wales by at least 2,000 hectares per annum from 2020.”

The same page tells us, “Any sites or development proposals, which require planning permission and forming part of this project, should be supported where appropriate.” Which I take to mean a presumption in favour of new woodland. Perhaps refusal of planning permission at local level will be over-ruled by the ‘Welsh Government’ or the new planning inspectorate it has promised.

Is it a coincidence that the area earmarked for the Summit to Sea land-grab north of Aberystwyth is free of wind and solar farms?

I believe that woodland and carbon capture will be the new subsidy/tax break wheeze for investors, multinationals and others. With the scale of the exploitation disguised by ensuring maximum publicity for a few small, locally-owned projects.

I say that because a couple of recent newspaper reports point in that direction. (The image is quite large, so you might prefer it in PDF format.)

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When the UK government puts a monetary value on the carbon-capture qualities of our uplands, and academics urge the planting of trees on grazing land, then we can almost guarantee that various forms of  ‘greenwash’ largesse are not far behind . . . hotly pursued by a slavering horde of shysters.

Part 5. As we saw in Part 4, the National Development Framework breaks colonial Wales down, like Caesar’s Gaul, into three parts. Just to remind you, these are North, Mid and South West, and South East.

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Starting with the north again, we see that in addition to the main growth points of Wrexham and Deeside, the ‘Centres of Regional Growth’ are all on the north coast – Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Bangor and Caernarfon.

To see four towns on the Costa Geriatrica that are already over-developed (in the sense that they don’t really serve Wales) marked for further development is absurd. Especially as they’re so close to each other.

The northern hinterland is presumably given over to tourism, tree planting, ‘re-wilding’, etc. But couldn’t Blaenau Ffestiniog, almost slap-bang in the middle of the ‘forgotten zone’, have been made a Centre of Regional Growth instead of Colwyn Bay or Prestatyn?

I’ve added ‘Blaenau Ffestiniog’. Click to enlarge

The emphasis on the coastal strip looks like the A55 commuter corridor, designed to take the housing not wanted by the upmarket towns and villages of Cheshire.

Moving south and west we have the Swansea conurbation as the main growth point complemented by eight Centres of Regional Growth with another example of ‘bunching’. For while I understand the need to do something for Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, do they really need to be treated separately?

I wish defenders of the NDF the best of luck in the Severn Valley explaining to the people of Welshpool why Newtown was chosen and not their town. Newtown that has seen much investment in recent decades from the Mid Wales Development Corporation of the 1960s up to the new by-pass that opened earlier this year.

More surprising though is the choice of Llandrindod. Why not Brecon? Llandrindod could serve as the archetype for ‘sleepy rural town’, enlivened only by the riff-raff dumped there by various agencies.

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Just like the north, the Mid and South West region is to have its own Metro. If these ever materialise then in the north it will result in better links with England, while in Swansea, a new Parkway station at Felindre will mean quicker travel times between the west and Cardiff, and a change of trains to go into Swansea.

Finally, let’s consider the master plan for the south east. Though if the management team in Corruption Bay gets its way then the south east of Wales will soon be Greater Cardiff.

There are fewer Centres of Regional Growth in the south east than in either of the other regions. In the north, there are four CRGs within 22 miles of each other, but just four in the whole of the south east, which has double the population of the north.

Specifically, and seeing as the ‘Welsh Government’ has promised Ebbw Vale so much in the wake of the Circuit of Wales fiasco, I’m surprised that Glyn Ebwy isn’t a CRG.

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You may have noticed a small green belt between Wrexham and Chester, well there’s a much bigger green belt, or ‘wedge’, in the south east. It seems to be a tapering, westward extension of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It takes in the area around the town of Usk, pushes on past Newport, and ends just south of Caerphilly. Presumably this protects Caerphilly Mountain from development? But not, apparently, Gwern y Domen.

I thought there was also a green belt between Cardiff and Newport, but apparently not. So maybe it’s a case of ‘Good-bye Newport – hello Cardiff East!’

The NDF document admits on page 67 that “Prosperity is not uniform across the region.” Wow! what a surprise. The same could be said for the whole bloody country. And we know the problem – the mini-me London that is our capital.

CONCLUSIONS

This uninspiring document was put together by people, many of whom don’t really know Wales, and to compensate for this ignorance they’ve relied too heavily on vested interests, and local big-wigs interested only in their patch.

When suggestions dried up, they adopted a ‘more of the same’ approach. Which probably explains why a passage from the Bible came to mind when I was reading this document: “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath”.

The National Development Framework is not – and could never be – a document setting out desirable national development over the next 20 years because the contributors were incapable of taking a truly national view.

For example, there has been a campaign running for a few years to re-open the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth railway line. This would provide an environmentally-friendly north-south link, the ‘Welsh Government’ has given £300,000 for a feasibility study, county and town councils support it, so why is there no mention of this project in the National Development Framework?

Why the emphasis on cross-border links in a document supposedly serving Wales?

And if this document is about serving Wales, then why is so much of our country being surrendered to wind farms and solar farms? There is little local benefit, very few jobs, and the argument that these reduce Wales’ carbon footprint is nonsense.

When it comes to wind turbines, we could do more for the environment by not importing these things from the continent, by not letting them trundle through our countryside on huge, smoke-belching trucks, and by not cutting down trees or destroying peat deposits to erect them.

Yet if the environment is the issue, and if the desire is for Wales to play its part, then why is there no support for locally-owned hydro and other schemes? I think that question answers itself – it’s because they’ll be locally owned.

Anyone who says wind farms are good for Wales, or for the environment, is either a liar, a fool, an ‘investor’, a landowner, or a politician spinning a line in ‘greenwash’. Click to enlarge.

The National Development Framework also mentions ‘affordable housing’ more than once, but no definition is offered. If you think it means rented social housing then think again. ‘Affordable housing’ is a ‘flexible’ term that can mean whatever the person using it wants it to mean.

That’s because the housing market itself is rather confusing, what with housing associations building properties for sale and for rent, even ‘fleecehold’ properties. Many Registered Social Landlords have also set up private subsidiaries that are little different to Redrow and Persimmon, and competing unfairly with smaller, local building firms. This sector really does need a shake-up.

If only to cut down on the waste of public funding when social housing providers allocate properties to people with no Welsh connections, and often people that nobody’d want as neighbours.

Insisting that no one could be given a social housing tenancy unless they’d lived in Wales for five years would both save money and improve social cohesion.

In addition to the ignorance and ineptitude at lower levels, the deeper problem is that the National Development Framework is essentially a colonial strategy – ‘Let Wales continue to serve England’s interests, with the local management team providing a smokescreen by virtue signalling to their little hearts’ content.’

Let us hope and pray that the current political and constitutional chaos results in the collapse of the United Kingdom and the emergence of independent and reunited countries in these islands.

All copies of the National Development Framework can then be pulped. Along with the buffoons down Corruption Bay that put their names to this national insult.

♦ end ♦

 

22 thoughts on “National Development Framework

  1. Ellie Wales

    My builder has told me that here in Ceredigion owners of building plots that acquired permission after a certain date now have to pay a 10% charge back to the council based upon the valuation of the finished property. This is not unique to this county, and perhaps should be followed up when you have time. The charge is supposed to be to put a benefit back into the community, but there doesn’t appear to be any accounting or disclosure. If the big building firms also have to pay, that’s a lot of money not clearly accounted for. Is this why they are sitting on land banks?
    As a result, plots that date from before this came into force are going up in value and those owning later plots are unwilling to develop with all the costs. The new rule on compulsory sprinkler systems in new Welsh homes is also adding between £15k and £25k on average to the cost of a home, and is also compulsory in any large extension.
    . . . and we wonder why housing is a problem.

  2. Wynne

    Interesting post again Jac. I totally agree with the following quotation from your post.

    “The National Development Framework also mentions ‘affordable housing’ more than once, but no definition is offered. If you think it means rented social housing then think again. ‘Affordable housing’ is a ‘flexible’ term that can mean whatever the person using it wants it to mean. That’s because the housing market itself is rather confusing, what with housing associations building properties for sale and for rent, even ‘fleecehold’ properties. Many Registered Social Landlords have also set up private subsidiaries that are little different to Redrow and Persimmon, and competing unfairly with smaller, local building firms. This sector really does need a shake-up”.

    What is becoming clear, from my own correspondence, is that the total number of affordable dwellings recorded by Welsh Government, promoted under various initiatives [Rent to Buy, Shared Ownership etc], differs from the number of affordable dwellings recorded by Local Authorities under the Town & Country Planning process, where developers enter into legal agreements {S.106 T&CP Act 1990] regarding the provision of affordable dwellings. There needs to be a clear simple definition of an “affordable dwelling” used by both Welsh Government and Local Government. National and Local records, relating to the provision of affordable housing, would then be synchronised. As you say, it’s currently such a flexible term as to be meaningless.

  3. Dafis

    What a fuckin’ dog’s dinner ! It may communicate with a degree of effectiveness when readers are speaking the same jargonised lingo as the scribblers but as a doc. aimed at enlightening and enthusing us great unwashed it has the impact of a script written in Mandarin.

    Even their stylised maps fail. We have amber dots with black surrounds indicating Centres of Growth, so far so good. Yet the solid black lines indicating interurban connectivity don’t go anywhere near these places. As for inter-regional connectivity you follow those lines at your peril as they seem to have been drawn onto the map by a wonk who stayed too late and got frightened by the dark outside !

    I’m a cynic anyway ( yes that’s true ! ) but this all seems to be a document written ass backwards i.e they decided first what they wanted to shove at us and then worked back to try and justify it with spin, bullshit and the odd shot of ambiguity and stats as binder.

    1. Wynne

      I have stopped reading Welsh Government “vision” documents. Drafted by people living in cloud cuckoo land.

      1. Cloud Cuckoo Land might suggest that they’re overly optimistic but believe what they’re saying. I think they know it’s bullshit.

    2. It’s a ‘consultation document’ hoping for little response that will then give the authors carte blanche to implement any bollocks they choose.

      That why it’s important to publicise it and try to get responses.

      1. Dafis

        Any Opposition Party with any semblance of backbone would be tearing chunks out of the present Labour Government for pushing out such an insipid document showing no real ambition to create a region ( Wales) of the UK capable of creating its own wealth. Plaid gone on holiday ? Oh no, too busy faffing about with the Brexit allegiances and those “strategic” deals that sees them surrendering their turf before they even win it !

        Leaving the Independence issue aside for a moment this is an utterly unambitious set of thoughts destined to keep the Principality ( that’s all it will be ! ) in the doldrums. And that is the real plan – a backwater province for dumping sick, elderly, criminals etc with odd areas set aside for leisure and recreation activities where surviving native can be employed for peanuts. 2 corridors will be allowed to operate on a basis something akin to their adjacent English regions and the rest will be an open range for all sorts of shits to exploit.

        Not on our watch !

      2. Penguin Farmer

        Jac, WAG will do what they want anyways, no matter what people contribute to the CONsultation (with CON being the operative part of the word). They proved that with TAN 8 (hereafter referred to as SCAM 8).

        The promise in SCAM 8 to restrict industrial wind (oops, SUBSIDY) farms to only a few chosen areas has been broken with the recent publication of the NDF CONsultation documents.

  4. Wrexhamian

    Imagine my surprise (Not!) on seeing that the local-authority areas with the lowest percentages of Welsh-born over-65s were not the post-industrial areas but the leafy rural areas and the coast. Well, at least the NDF-wallahs will know where to build English retirement condo’s in the future – maybe that’s what they mean by ‘Regional Growth Areas’…

  5. Brychan

    You’ve included an incorrect link Jac.

    It doesn’t link to “National Development Framework”. That’s your granddaughters’ year 9 Geography project. My only critisism is that she should stop downloading maps of Wales from the internet and pasting in the disney icons. It would have been better with crayons and a little more thought.

    C-
    Please try harder.

    I take it that her school is in Kirsty Williams Special Measures and also suffers from the contract for the temporary supply teachers from Milton Keynes. Have you got a proper link?

    1. Kris Moore

      Well I have just started to read in depth the “virtue signalling on steroids” but thought I would read this first. Brychan’s comment had me laughing but it won’t “sustain” me in reading through this stuff on the WAG NDF.. Calling Holyhead & Fishguard international connections? Thank you Jac for taking the time & expertise to construct these items – we owe you.

  6. Dafis

    The madness among politicians erupts daily like a chain of volcanoes on the Pacific Rim. Today we get a beaut from Trump, a fairly reliable source of eruptions. The stupid bastard wants to “acquire” Greenland ! Pay cash for it ? no doubt using Ponzi-style US $ currency backed by credit, credit, credit ….. Man needs to remember that he was elected to sort out America, but he now thinks that “Make America great” is about making it bigger !

  7. Dafis

    Yet another gaffe of some considerable magnitude today from Santes Leanne. Urging support for Antifa really shows how shallow the “anti-Fascist” puddle has become. Now a rallying cry for rebels without a cause. Might be fit for a rebellious 6th former but a middle aged middle class overpaid politician ? I rest my case. At next election she will be out on her arse even if Labour select a blind and deaf donkey. And no loss to Wales.

    1. For Leanne Wood and her supporters Plaid Cymru was never more than a platform from which to spout about the things they really cared about. They captured the party and are now holding it to ransom, even though they represent a minority view within the party. Demanding Welsh support for leftist thugs in the USA proves what I’m saying.

      YesCymru was launched in 2016 as a response to Plaid Cymru’s neglect of the independence question and Welsh issues generally – so Leanne Wood tried to take over and then wreck what was clearly an indictment of her leadership of Plaid. When those tactics failed, her acolytes set up Undod, and she also used Plaid Ifanc and Undeb Plaid Cymru. These are now trying to dictate who is and who is not acceptable to AUOB Cymru, and the political complexion of an independent Wales.

      The left maintaining control of Plaid Cymru after Leanne Wood’s humiliating defeat in the leadership contest would have been impossible without the support – submission? – of dumbos like Alun Ffred, who really should have known better. And the continuing persecution of Neil McEvoy also helps their cause. Small wonder that Labour-controlled Deryn is orchestrating the campaign against McEvoy to keep Leann’s gang in control of a party that has rejected them.

      1. Dafis

        If the Johnson regime in London gets pushed into a General Election it could be terminal for Plaid. In the perverse climate of the “Brexit crisis” there will be polarisation with even Lib Dems gaining some traction in Wales because of Adam’s “gift without strings” in the recent bi-election.
        I hope that LSR can hang on to her seat and J Edwards might in Sir Gar, Williams is already a borderline case in Arfon and that silly decision of Adam’s could throw young Ben under the bus unless there is a serious campaign built around his personal contribution rather than a list of wet Plaid “policies”. Elsewhere what might have been a good showing will dissolve into a shallow no-show as the squabbling Unionist parties feast on the Welsh electorate. Shame on Wales but even greater shame on Plaid.

  8. Dafis

    Picking up on your tweet column, specifically the “news” that Mark James may be in a spot of bother with Old Bill ( can’t say he didn’t have it coming to him, ho ho).
    Given that Sir Gar has a Plaid regime at the helm you’d think that the party of devout righteousness would be out there demanding the modern equivalent of the Inquisition followed by a full serving of hell’s flames. Instead we get a stony silence and a side dish of distraction ishoos the menu for which seems to grow longer each passing day. Someone got to close to him and might get scorch mark!

    I find myself almost at the point where their total obliteration at this upcoming General Election is desirable although the Westminster group look half tidy compared to most of their Bay rabble and their retarded footsoldiers.

  9. Dafis

    Thanks to Mother Earth and all the gods that answer prayers for the treat we have in reading Dic Mortimer’s works. That work referred in today’s tweet is a must. Rarely do we find a person with such an insight into our condition who can write about it so eloquently. Do not miss it.

    1. I’ve read it. It’a corker. Dic may be on the left, but it’s the left that cares about Wales, rather than uses Wales

  10. D

    The comment/revelation on Mark James having his home raided [by an independent police force?] looks very interesting.

    If it leads to criminal charges and conviction or even a successful civil claim makes the judges who handled the libel cases look the incompetents that they probably are. May be a chance the real victim can get those orders/judgements set aside possibly on the basis that you can’t besmirch/libel the good [or rather bad] character of a criminal [assuming there is a conviction].

    What a beaut if it happens and the idiot councillors who awarded public funds for the actions would really look like dippy donkeys [no offence meant to donkeys].

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