A PLANNING blueprint setting out where almost 8,500 new homes could be built in Wrexham has been described as “not fit for purpose”.

It follows new population estimates being released by the Welsh Government, which predict the number of people living in the country borough will drop by 1.5 per cent by 2028.

Plaid Cymru councillors on Wrexham Council have written to the Planning Inspectorate, which is currently considering the Local Development Plan (LDP), to call for large greenfield sites to be removed from the document.

They highlighted figures which show around 4,000 of the houses required over the lifetime of the LDP have either been built or received planning permission.

The Cardiff-based government’s minister for housing and local government Julie James yesterday (Tuesday 11, August) acknowledged that authorities should keep housing blueprints under review in light of new evidence.

Meanwhile, inspectors have said they will take the issue into account as part of their considerations.

In their correspondence to the two inspectors overseeing the process, Cllrs Carrie Harper, Gwenfair Jones, Marc Jones and Phil Rees said: “The original population projections for Wrexham, which led to Welsh Government setting an initial target of 13,000 new homes for the council’s LDP2 in 2012, was for a 20 per cent rise in the population.

“This was the second highest in Wales (only beaten by Cardiff) and was soon downgraded in 2014 to a 10 per cent projected growth in population.

“The emerging evidence has now led to an even more significant downgrading of forecast growth and we find ourselves in a situation where we have a housing target that is not fit for purpose.

“To continue with the LDP’s housing allocation of 7,750 (with a 10 per cent slippage on top of that to make 8,465 in total) would be perverse and ignore important new evidence.”

They outlined figures shared by the council’s chief planning officer Lawrence Isted, which show that out of the total housing target, 1,561 properties have already been built and 2,007 have been granted permission.

A further 474 have either been approved or constructed on sites which were not originally expected to be brought forward.

They said this accounted for around 52 per cent of the amount needed to accommodate a ten per cent population growth.

They added: “Now that the forecast population growth is -1.5 per cent by 2028, we would contend that the large greenfield sites currently in the draft plan should now be abandoned from the LDP.

“These elements were imposed against local wishes by the Welsh Government when it rejected LDP1.”

A response from an official overseeing the process, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, states lead inspectors Siân Worden and Melissa Hall are currently note accepting “unsolicited representations”.

However, programme officer Kerry Trueman added: “They recognise the importance of the issues raised and will be taking them into account in their consideration of the soundness of the LDP, seeking clarification from the council where appropriate.”

When asked whether Wrexham’s LDP should be paused in light of the new population figures, Julie James MS said all the relevant information should be taken into account.

Speaking at yesterday’s weekly Welsh Government press conference, she said: “We’ve been working very closely with planning authorities to understand where they are in terms of planning on the ground and where they are in terms of their systems.

“We have always said that people should keep the LDP under review.

“We’re also working hard through the Local Government and Elections Bill to put a regional arrangement in place for a strategic level plan in place and we’ll be introducing the national development framework at the beginning of the next term of the Senedd.

“We will have a fully plan-led system in place and as a result of those other plans going into place, we would expect councils to review the LDP.”