A COUNCIL has issued a strong rebuke to claims that a change to planning policy could ‘seriously damage’ the housing industry.

Flintshire Council has welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to allow it and other local authorities to suspend part of Technical Advice Note  (TAN) 1, which requires them to show evidence of a five-year housing land supply.

The long-standing policy stated that “considerable weight” should be given to the need to increase supply, when dealing with residential application.

However, following a six-week consultation, Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, cabinet secretary for energy, planning and rural affairs, has permitted councils to remove that wording.

Housing companies have raised fears it could cost the Welsh economy £150 million per year, as well as causing job losses and preventing people from getting on the property ladder.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Wales is already facing a huge under-supply of new homes and the decision to make this amendment threatens to reduce output further.

“Local authorities in Wales are not abiding by their responsibilities and allocating enough land in the right or viable locations for the homes their communities need.

“The ‘considerable weight’ stipulation helped ensure that development would still come forward in areas where local authorities were not performing.

“Its removal has serious social and economic consequences and will exacerbate the acute housing crisis we already face in Wales.”

But despite industry fears, Flintshire’s planning chief has come out strongly in support of the changes and described the response of developers as ‘disappointing’.

Andy Farrow, chief officer for planning, environment and economic development, has also questioned the accuracy of the claims and believes it will stem the flow of speculative planning applications in the county.

The move was announced on the morning of the council’s planning committee meeting last week and led to two developments which were backed for approval in Drury and Penyffordd being deferred.

Mr Farrow said: “While the response from developers is not unexpected, it is nevertheless disappointing as well as not being entirely accurate or representative of the current housing position.

“The decision by the cabinet secretary is both sensible and proportionate, taking account, as it does, of the wider impacts of speculative development such as pressure on communities, pressure on local authorities, and the erosion of the principle of the plan led system, rather than just the interests of developers.

“This is also not, at present, a permanent policy change and developers have the opportunity to submit evidence to the cabinet secretary as do local authorities.

“Equally, developers do not say how this will do “serious damage” to the industry, nor if they are willing to expand completion rates on permitted schemes to meet the perceived demands of the local housing market.

“Developers also have the opportunity to become more fully engaged in the local development plan process as it is through the plan led process that certainty is provided about what development is planned, and where it will happen.”

Although almost all Welsh councils have local development plans, but not at the moment in Flintshire and Wrexham, only three of 25 local planning authorities in Wales currently have an established five-year supply of land for new housing.

As a result, housebuilders have been putting forward alternative – ‘unallocated’ sites where local planning authorities can’t demonstrate that supply.

Planning consultancy Lichfields estimates the changes will reduce annual housebuilding in Wales by almost a third.