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MONMOUTHSHIRE: Development plan revisions

Monmouthshire County Council

NEW housing planned for Chepstow will move closer to the Highbeech roundabout under revised plans put forward by Monmouthshire County Council.

The authority put out its development blueprint for the next 11 years in December 2022 with the public having the chance to have their say on the proposals until the end of January this year. Council officials have spent the following months considering comments from the public, as well as interested bodies including the Welsh Government, and tweaking the proposals.

Other changes in the latest version of the replacement local development plan, which will guide where land for new housing and employment is located in Monmouthshire through to 2033, include the addition of a “preferred” housing development site in Monmouth and a subsequent reduction in the number of homes planned around Caldicot.

The total number of homes that could be built over the plan period has also increased by 270 to 6,210 which takes account of the new site in Monmouth and allows for a “flexibility” rate on how much housing should be allowed increasing from 10 per cent to 15.

As originally published the plan had an upper limit of 5,940 homes and the revised total figure includes approximately 4,085 homes that have either been built since 2018, are under construction or likely to be completed.

As a result the plan has to allocate land for approximately 1,660 to 2,125 new homes, which includes 830 to 1,065 affordable properties due to the Labour-led council’s commitment to 50 per cent affordable housing.

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The plan also identifies 100 new houses that could be built by the Ministry of Defence in the Caldicot area to accommodate the families of soldiers who will be based at the Caerwent Barracks, but as they will not be available to the general public they don’t count towards the housing target.

It is also intended to provide sites for 6,240 new jobs.

The Welsh Government has said the housing growth figures are justified due to the need for affordable housing but the changes have failed to win the backing of a council scrutiny committee which has expressed concerns at a number of aspects of the updated plan – and said it doesn’t align with the council having declared a climate emergency.

Councillor Lisa Dymock who chaired the meeting which considered the updates said: “There are some rather large concerns from members who are unhappy to endorse this report.”

Shirenewton Conservative councillor Louise Brown said the plan to “swap” the preferred strategic site for 145 new houses in Chepstow from the previously identified Bayfield site, next to the A466 St Lawrence Road with the B4235 as its northern boundary, further south along the A466, on land between Mounton Road and St Lawrence Lane, which is adjacent to the Highbeech roundabout, caused her concern.

She said: “Both will cause mayhem on the Highbeech roundabout and Mounton Road is directly next to the roundabout and the land is needed for roundabout improvements.”

She said she was “astounded by the idea Mounton Road would be a better option” and said for either site infrastructure improvements would be needed and highlighted that a year ago the committee had said the Forest of Dean council’s future housing plans required transport improvements, possibly including a Chepstow bypass.

Mounton Road is considered, by the council, to outweigh the Bayfield site as it also includes land that could be used for a care home and hotel and is closer to the train station while Bayfield is a steeper site.

Negatives of the Mounton Road site are that it is close to a listed building and 72 per of it is considered to be of “the best and most versatile” agricultural land compared to just 28 per cent of the Bayfield site.

When the plan was being drawn up land in Monmouth couldn’t be designated for new housing due to the impact of phosphates on the river Wye but the Welsh Government has said as Welsh Water now has plans to upgrade the waste water treatment plant by 2025 new builds can go ahead.

Land off Dixton Road, that could provide 270 new homes, is the preferred site. A potential 110 homes on land at Drewen Farm and a site at Tudor Road, Wyesham , that could be suitable for 35 to 50 homes, that are both included in the current development plan as well as land at Rockfield Road, where there is an ongoing planning application, could also count towards the total housing figure.

As a result of potential development in Monmouth 480 houses have had to be redistributed and that has seen what the council has dubbed the Caldicot East strategic site reduced from approximately 925 homes to around 735 homes. It remains large enough for an on-site primary school, to be funded by developers, to be included in the plans.

Frances Taylor, independent councillor for Magor West, said Caldicot wasn’t considered to be a sustainable location when the plan that is currently in use was being considered, in 2012, but it, and the wider Severnside area, are now listed as such.

She said: “Caldicot East is not Caldicot it’s Portskewett, it’s not Caldicot at all and not within its development boundaries.”

She said though Magor and Undy are “often described as strategic locations” she said this isn’t true for people without a car and said bus services have reduced since the current plan was prepared.

Magor East with Undy Labour councillor John Crook said the area lacked open spaces and said: “We’ve had more than our fair share of building in Magor with Undy.”

Wyesham independent councillor Emma Bryn asked how Monmouth could be included with the plan stating development is concentrated on the most sustainable locations. She said it has poor public transport and people would be reliant on private vehicles adding to pressure on the A40 trunk road that is already at capacity.

She said: “I would challenge anyone to use the bus services to access work in Newport, Hereford or Gloucester as the services are neither frequent or reliable and often nonexistent.”

Osbaton Conservative councillor Jane Lucas, said: “You want to try catching a bus here in Monmouth it’s mission impossible.”

Council officers told the committee work on transport plans is still being developed as part of the process and individual land allocations aren’t being decided with only potential development sites and strategic areas for where development should be based identified. Talks are also being held with the council’s education department and the health board on the impact of new housing.

Head of planning Craig O’Connor said the direction from Welsh Government is that new housing should be “focused on primary settlements” where services and employment are already located to reduce the need for people to travel.

The committee said its concerns are infrastructure and impact on existing services, including transport, education and health, the “saturation” of housing in the south of the county and they also wanted more information on the affordable housing plans and protection for agricultural land.

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