WORK on a plan that could deliver some 5,000 new homes is to start all over again – five years after it began.
As a result all sites put forward for new homes and employment in Torfaen will be withdrawn, while landowners, and others who nominated them for consideration, will have to wait for a new appeal for ‘candidate sites’ likely to be issued this summer.
A Welsh Government review of new road building projects, which took 20 months to report, has been blamed for delaying the council’s work on its replacement local development plan, which started in 2018, and forcing it to start again on the blueprint that was meant to guide development through to 2033.
When the roads review did report, in February this year, it gave the go-ahead for improvements to the A4042 and changes to the B4246 at Llanfrechfa. The council considered the outcome of the review crucial due to potential sites in the area as it had identified Llanfrechfa as a ‘strategic action area’ for mixed use development.
Richard Lewis, the authority’s head of planning, told councillors the delay had meant it is unlikely the new local development plan will now be ready for adoption, when it can come into use as the council’s planning policy, in January 2026 as originally intended.
Mr Lewis said adopting it in January 2026 would result in the period the plan covered being too short: “That would mean there would be seven and a quarter years of the plan period left to run. The Welsh Government guidance is there should be at least 10 years left.”
He said the authority had been warned, by the Welsh Government, if it adopted a plan with less than eight years remaining it could be found “unsound” by an independent inspector who must assess it to ensure is fit for use and complies with national planning policies.
However the plan the council will soon start work on will run to 2037 and its says “all going well” it should be able to adopt it in October 2026 which is just nine months later than originally planned.
The Welsh Government had also told the council it should consider a “higher growth model” than the 320 new homes every year of the orginal plan period. While that would have resulted in a possible 4,800 new homes Torfaen is part of the area in south Wales identified as suitable for the highest growth.
Consent to withdraw the plan had to be given by the full council at its April meeting and once that has been accepted by Welsh ministers work that has already taken place will disappear from the council website as the process starts over again.
Independent councillor for Abersychan Giles Davies asked if the council would be “reimbursed for the extra money it is likely to spend” and said the roads review had “caused the plan to fail”.
But Mr Lewis said it was a council decision to pause work while it waited for the review outcome, fearing it would have wasted money on preparing a plan that included sites that depended on the road improvement schemes. He also said the biggest impact had likely been on the time of council officers.
Llantarnam independent Alan Slade said his recollection was the council had originally opted to back a “higher growth strategy” but Mr Lewis said the council is now being told to “test” the potential of further growth but won’t be committed to additional housing.
Labour member for Pontnewydd, Cwmbram Stuart Ashley said he couldn’t see “any other option” than that presented by Mr Lewis.
Sites that were due to move to the next stage of consideration included Pontypool College, the former Autopia Site in Llantarnam Road, Cwmbran and land of Giles Road in Blaenavon that were all put forward for new housing as well as the former County Hall building in Cwmbran and Gwent Police’s former headquarters.
Potential employment sites included Llantarnam Business Park and the former Alfa Laval factory in Cwmbran and land at Kays and Kears industrial estate in Blaenavon while Cwmbran and Pontypool police stations could have been used for housing and employment.
Other factors that have caused the delay include the Covid pandemic which resulted in an extended consultation period, and further work that was required on potential flooding and information on affordable housing.