A planning inspector has raised concerns about the process used to assess potential sites for thousands of new homes in Wrexham.
Wrexham Council voted to send its proposed Local Development Plan (LDP) to an inspector appointed by the Welsh Government last year, despite a number of objections from local communities.
The document outlines areas where up to 8,000 houses could be built in the county and its validity is currently being tested as part of a series of public hearings.
During a session held yesterday, lead inspector Siân Worden voiced frustration about the lack of evidence given by the authority to justify rejecting alternative locations suggested by developers, which are not included in the plan.
Highlighting a site near Brymbo Steelworks, which builders said could accommodate 350 properties, the inspector said: “I just wanted to understand the way that site has been assessed.
“I can’t understand it as there should be some evaluation of that site and I don’t know where it is.
“We’re talking about 350, aren’t we? It’s not two houses in the back of somebody’s garden and where is the assessment?
“My concerns are with the site selection process and my concern is this is not the only site. There might be other similar sites and I don’t know if you can do anything to reassure me on that front.”
The LDP under discussion is the second created by the council after a previous version was withdrawn in 2012 amid significant concerns from inspectors.
The latest issues raised by Ms. Worden were echoed by developers present at the meeting, who said they felt other sites suggested were not properly considered.
Meanwhile, residents living near some of the locations which are included in the plan said they were dissatisfied with the level of evidence given to back their submission.
In response, council officials said a significant amount of work had been carried out to assess the large volume of sites put forward for possible inclusion in the LDP.
Linda Sharp, the authority’s planning policy manager, added some land had been submitted late in the day and developers would need to prove they had followed the correct procedures.
She said: “We have assessed 625 sites, taking into account the suitability of the settlements to accommodate developments.
“In the round they were all considered as part of the process and obviously there were some new sites which came forward later in the process.
“Where statutory processes have not been undertaken for sites submitted late in the preparation process, the inspector’s report would not be able to recommend their inclusion in the LDP.
“It’s therefore the responsibility of those promoting such changes to show proper procedures have been undertaken and provide the necessary evidence to demonstrate that the plan would be sound if the site were to be included.”
The hearings will continue until mid-October after which Ms. Worden will decide whether any changes are needed to the plan.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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