Vale Council: Labour denies u-turn on LDP scrap pledge
THE LABOUR-LED Vale Council coalition has announced it still intends to 'scrap' the draft Local Development Plan drawn up by the previous administration.
Cabinet leaders maintain they have not backed down on pre-election promises to scrap the LDPand put it out to a satisfactory public consultation before its submission to the Welsh Government.
The LDP is the key document guiding the development of Vale communities during the next 15 years, deciding where development should take place and what infrastructure such as jobs, transport, schools are needed.
The existing plan prepared by the previous Conservative-led administration allocates land for the provision of 10,945 new dwellings in the Vale at a minimum density of 30 dwellings per hectare.
Critics complained there was an over-saturation of housing development earmarked for Barry, Sully and surrounding areas and that the consultation was too short and complicated.
But confusion reigned last week over whether the plan would be 'scrapped' or 'changed' following the publication of a document obtained by Vale MP Alun Cairns via a Freedom of Information request.
Notes of a ministerial meeting held on August 6 between Welsh Government officials and the Vale Council - at which Vale AM Jane Hutt and Vale Council leader Neil Moore and cabinet member for regeneration, innovation, planning and transportation Lis Burnett were present - revealed Welsh Government officials had outlined the scope of 'focused changes' and the evidence required to make them.
The document stated: "It would appear the new administration has specific issues regarding certain aspects of the plan, linked to pledges made during recent elections. There appears to be a desire to make changes to the plan. The issue is whether the 'focused changes' stage in the plan preparation can accommodate such changes."
The notes added: "There was no desire to start the LDP plan process again; rather the issue was refinement of the current plan.
"Any changes should not go to the heart of the plan, be so significant as to change the plan, or contradict existing evidence."
A spokeswoman said Welsh Government guidelines said: "If a local authority concludes that it wishes to withdraw its current plan and start again, it would need to consider the implications of doing so.
"Such action could result in the loss of financial benefits arising from a planned approach to development, as well as more random ad hoc development occurring due to the absence of an adopted LDP.
"This is a risk each local authority has to consider taken against the benefits of having an adopted LDP in place."
Vale MP Alun Cairns MP said the key issue was that the administration promised to scrap the LDP before the local elections and 'appeared to have reneged on that commitment' after being elected.
He said: "I've been contacted by many residents in Barry and the wider Vale, who are anxious about the proposed development.
"The root cause of the difficulty relates back to the 10,000 new houses that the Welsh Government are forcing on the Vale. I would urge our Assembly Members to deliver a lower housing target.
"The infrastructure in Barry and the rural Vale is insufficient to support the 10,000 new houses which is a 41% increase on new housing built in the Vale over the last 15 years."
Vale AM Jane Hutt said the Labour administration at the Vale Council was committed to consulting on the way forward.
She said: "The former Conservative administration is responsible for the current LDP Draft which the new Vale Council has made clear it is scrapping.
"I am confident that the decisions on the way forward will be fully informed by the representations received when the LDP was published earlier this year."
Cllr Burnett said: "We were and remain concerned at the consultation exercise that was undertaken.
"Residents complained that it was too complicated and too short. We are also concerned at the manner in which the preferred strategy has been interpreted.
"We feel that the Deposit Plan, as drafted, fails to deal with the issues relating to traffic growth, congestion and pollution.
"It is disappointing that the Deposit Plan does not address the infrastructure requirements of the Vale of Glamorgan in accommodating growth. These are all matters that must be addressed.
"We have spoken to the Welsh Government to explore all options and will be submitting a new delivery agreement with changed time scales to allow us to put things right," she added.
"We will shortly be bringing a report to both Cabinet and Scrutiny on how we will develop an alternative sustainable LDP and ensure everyone has a real chance to input. We will also be exploring options to extend future consultation periods."
She said the final version of the plan presented to the inspector would not be the same as the existing document and added: "I am confident at that point people will agree that we did in fact scrap the LDP."