THE LATEST stage of a plan that could pave the way for more than 6,000 homes over the next 10 years in one part of Gwent has won the backing of councillors.
The replacement local development plan will set out where new housing should be built in Monmouthshire by 2033 and includes around 735 new homes east of Caldicot, 500 in Abergavenny and 145 in Chepstow near to the Highbeech Roundabout.
Caldicot East, which includes Portskewett, and an agricultural field in Abergavenny between the A465 and Skirrid Fach, were identified last year as preferred strategic sites.
But since the public and interested parties had a chance to comment on the document in December and January this year, planners proposed making Mounton Road, which is next to the notoriously congested roundabout, the preferred Chepstow site rather than Bayfield which is near the Racecourse.
Other changes in the latest version of the plan before a draft is produced next year include Leasbrook, off Dixton Road, being a preferred site for some 270 homes in Monmouth – as planned improvements to the waste water treatment works mean a block on new housing in the town can be lifted.
That will also allow 301 homes that had been planned for in the current local development plan for Monmouth at Drewen Farm, two sites at Rockfield Road and Tudor Road, Wyesham to be potentially developed.
They would form some of the 4,085 in a land bank which have either already been given permission, have been built or are under construction and smaller sites and ‘windfall’ sites meaning the plan has to find land for approximately 1,660 to 2,125 new homes, of which 830 to 1,065 would be affordable homes.
The range from 1,600 to 2,100 allows for a flexibility rate of up to 15 per cent.
Opposition councillors however have questioned if the Labour-led administration’s policy of 50 per cent of all new houses in Monmouthshire being affordable can be achieved, and whether that will mean there is less money for new projects – from play parks to schools – from developers.
Usk Conservative Tony Kear said he had worked in corporate banking financing housing developers and questioned whether they will gain funding to develop homes on that basis.
Green Party cabinet member Cllr Ian Chandler called speeches from opposition councillors “inconsistent” as they want affordable housing but say: “It’s not what the developers want, it’s not what the bankers want, they do not want us to build affordable housing.”
Cllr Kear responded “that’s not what I said” but Cllr Chandler continued: “This plan has affordable housing at its heart and centre. We have a problem with homelessness in this county. Monmouthshire families need homes and do not have them at the moment they are living in spare rooms or having to leave the county.”
Llanelly Hill independent Simon Howarth said Section 106 – the legal agreements by which developers pay for community improvements – “keep our communities viable” but he questioned if the funds, that are dependent on the profitability of housing developments, would still be available and said: “We have to have a balance here.”
He also said the plan hasn’t considered exception sites – outside normal development boundaries – which could allow housing associations to build more homes.
Several Chepstow area councillors criticised the Mounton Road site and concerns were raised over the impact of recent new housing developments in Chepstow and thousands built just over the border.
Conservative Christopher Edwards said identifying the site as suitable for a care home and hotel, as part of initial steps in finding land for 6,240 new jobs over the same period, would likely only support minimum wage employment and compete with existing bed and breakfasts.
Conservative Louise Brown said the area should be “the gateway to Wales” but would be replaced with “urban sprawl” and said: “I don’t support either Bayfield or Mounton Road.”
Party colleague Paul Pavia said he must have received “nearly 100 emails” in relation to the Mounton Road site in the past fortnight and said: “There is clearly concern and in many cases out and out opposition.”
But Labour member for Chepstow Dale Rooke said it was important the council has a development plan: “Identifying a site doesn’t necessarily mean it will be built on and without a replacement local development plan we would be open to unscrupulous developers who would apply for permission on land that’s not suitable and when it is turned down they would get approval on appeal as we would not have a plan.”
Cabinet member Paul Griffiths, who also represents a Chepstow ward, said issues around transport and infrastructure would be addressed as the plan is developed but told councillors “Chepstow is an absolutely brilliant place to be, I’m not saying there aren’t problems, but people who live there enjoy it.”
The council agreed by 23 votes to 22 to endorse the latest updates to the plan. A deposit, or draft version, will now be drawn up which the public will be consulted on next spring before the council is asked to agree to submit it to the Welsh Government. It will then be examined by an independent inspector and could become the county’s official planning policy in 2025.