Housing crisis: Councillor secures debate on controversial planning blueprint amid Welsh language fears
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
An extraordinary meeting of Gwynedd Council has been called amid pressure to review the authority’s planning blueprint, “in context of the existing housing crisis within the county.”
Backbench members have triggered a mechanism to call a full council meeting amid concerns over the existing Joint Local Development Plan (JLDP).
The document proposes why and where up to 7,184 new homes should be built across Anglesey and Gwynedd over the period up to 2026.
The plan was ratified separately by both authorities in 2017, with a scheduled monitoring review set to take place this year.
But after reaching the minimum allowed threshold of five councillors to trigger an extraordinary meeting of all 75 members, one Llŷn councillor has called for a debate on the plans.
Even when Gwynedd Council approved the plan, the knife-edge decision was only made thanks to the casting vote by the council’s chair, facing much opposition due to concerns it would lead to a drop in the number of Welsh speakers in both counties.
Cllr Gruffydd Williams, the unaffiliated member for Nefyn, believes there is a need to go further than the scheduled review and asked councillors to also consider the 12 recommendations raised by Porthmadog academic, Dr Simon Brooks, in a recent report on second homes and their impact on many Welsh speaking communities.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “When you take into account Brexit, Covid-19 and Wylfa Newydd, so many things have changed since the plan was adopted, house prices are shooting up and the plight of Welsh speaking communities is looking more perilous than ever.
“I wanted to called this meeting, having already spoken to around 30 councillors, as I feel its only right that all members of Gwynedd, and Anglesey councils in fairness, are given a chance to have their say rather than all the burden being placed on the few that sit on the JLDP committee”
In his letter, Cllr Williams noted, “It would be desirable to give particular priority, going past what is noted as the usual monitoring period within the plan itself and to submit proposals which correspond to Dr. Simon Brooks’ report “Second Homes – Developing New Policies in Wales” which was commissioned by the Welsh Government.”
Adding that with any prospect of a major nuclear development on Anglesey looking more uncertain than ever, he argued that this should be taken into consideration as it was a major cornerstone of the plan when first ratified.
While Wylfa Newydd had been earmarked for a site near Cemaes in northern Anglesey, Gwynedd Council had also made arrangements for increased demand on housing in the Arfon area.
Anti-Nuclear group PAWB has long argued that both the JLDP and the North Wales Growth Plan were drawn up on the assumption that Wylfa B “would happen and that it would be a good thing.”
And when it was set up earlier this year, the two member Propel group on Gwynedd Council also set its stall in strong opposition to the JLDP, citing the impact on house prices and subsequently Welsh speaking communities.
But a report by the planning portfolio holder, Cllr Gareth Griffith, states that its a statutory requirement to start reviewing the JLDP from July 31, 2021.
In a joint statement last year, both Anglesey and Gwynedd councils added: “The evidence base collated on an annual basis will need to be taken into account when monitoring the plan, along with any other contextual change of relevance, such as the situation with Wylfa Newydd.”
The extraordinary meeting will be held next Monday, June 28.