WREXHAM is still without a Local Development Plan after councillors, including the council leader, voted against adopting the latest draft.
Producing an LDP is a requirement of local authorities by the Welsh Government, and this was the second attempt for Wrexham to get its 2013-2028 blueprint in place.
Wrexham’s proposed plan was drafted to allocate sites where around 8,000 homes and major developments could be built in the county borough.
This latest version went out to public consultation five years ago, and was then examined and tweaked by the government and independent inspectors who deemed this plan sound to adopt earlier this year.
Despite this, many residents across Wrexham and a large number of councillors remained unhappy with aspects of it – such as the location of a proposed Gypsy site off Coed Y Felin Road in Brymbo, the number of new homes earmarked for land off Cefn Road near the city centre, and overall potential impact on the county borough’s infrastructure. Campaigners against the LDP were present at the Guildhall for the meeting.
But rejecting the LDP leaves the council open to potentially having a plan imposed on it by the Welsh Government, or being taken to court for a costly Judicial Review.
This point was hammered home to councillors at the start of the meeting by chief planning officer David Fitzsimon who said it would also be difficult for the health board and other public bodies to plan for the future without a plan in place.
Holt Cllr Mike Morris (Con), the long-serving chair of the council’s planning committee, proposed voting to adopt the plan.
He said the time for councillors to air their grievances with it was five years ago before they voted for it to go out to public consultation, and that many of their long-standing issues had been thoroughly examined by the inspectors.
“It’s not perfect and it’s not up to date. No plan ever will be because the preparation time takes years”, Cllr Morris said.
“No plan will ever please everyone.”
Among the many councillors to speak out against the plan, Grosvenor Cllr Marc Jones (Plaid) and Queensway Cllr Carrie Harper (Plaid) said the Wrexham population had not grown as much as anticipated years ago so questioned the plan’s validity.
Cllr Harper added: “This might be called a Local Development Plan but I think we all know it’s developer rather than community led.
“The Cefn Road site in particular is huge and completely unnecessary. It’s a new village with up to 1,600 houses that will result in the loss of vast swathes of valuable greenfield and will put huge pressure on local infrastructure services.”
Llay Cllr Rob Walsh (Ind) spoke of large developments in Llay in recent years, saying he had nothing against outsiders moving to Wrexham as it is a “welcoming city”, but worried about the increased pressure on doctors’ surgeries, schools, and the hospital.
“To adopt it is to fail the people of Wrexham in my view”, he said.
Towards the end of the debate, council leader Esclusham Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind) made an extraordinary speech to rubbish the plan, pulling various aspects of it apart and said he would not be voting for it.
“You shouldn’t be coming here and voting for second best, you should be voting for what’s right for Wrexham”, he said.
“I can assure you it’s not easy for me to stand here as leader of the council and say I don’t support it.
“I think it’s an unsound plan.”
On the one proposed Travellers site left in the plan which was allocated to Brymbo, he said: “It’s a shambles that site, it should never have been put forward. The visibility splays, contamination, where’s the money going to come from? It shouldn’t be in there but it’s in there.
“You shouldn’t vote for it and you shouldn’t support it because it’s in the wrong place.”
Cllr Pritchard added that he had been to look at the Brymbo site this week and nothing had changed his mind before covering concerns ranging from phosphates to roads.
He said: “We know there’s overdevelopment, we know there’s not the need for these houses, and yet some of you here this evening are supporting it, knowing that the demand is not there, and we’re building houses for people to come from outside the area when there’s no need and you’re building on green fields and agricultural land.
“Where do you start with phosphates? That’s not going to be resolved very quickly. I felt the inspector could have refused it on phosphates alone but they didn’t and I respect that as their decision.
“And then you come on to infrastructure, the A483. £53m was there, we were promised by Ministers that the A483 junctions were going to be done and what do they do? Lo and behold they announce the £53m is gone.
“Cefn Road – disaster. If you think there is congestion there now, wait until those houses are built. Then you go on to Bersham Road to Ruthin Road. I’ve been there four times in the last fortnight sitting there in traffic, gridlock, you can’t move, bumper to bumper. They want to build 1,500 houses.”
Cllr Pritchard added that he felt it was “a substandard plan”, that local democracy was under attack if councillors were being pressured to consider judicial reviews and financial costs in their decision making.
Councillors ultimately voted to reject the proposed LDP, leaving Wrexham as the only council out of the 22 local authorities in Wales that is still without one.