by Rory Sheehan
There are nearly 4,000 people currently on Wrexham Council’s housing waiting list, with the deputy leader says an environmental issue is blocking progress to new builds.
Speaking at a media briefing ahead of next week’s Executive Board meeting, Cllr David A Bithell (Ind), lead member for Housing, outlined one of the key obstacles to more local authority stock being built.
Last year Natural Resources Wales (NRW) published new targets to reduce river phosphate levels in special areas of conservation (SAC) across Wales.
It followed concerns about an increase in phosphate concentrations – which can cause water pollution – in the country’s rivers.
While Natural Resources Wales, the Welsh Government and local authorities are working together to try and find a solution to the issue, a number of planning applications in Wrexham and Flintshire have had to be rejected for phosphate reasons alone in recent months – due to proximity to the River Dee.
And Wrexham Council’s leadership fear it could see much-needed development of the authority’s own properties grind to a halt unless it is resolved soon.
Cllr Bithell said: “I do have concerns with the phosphates issue. We can’t build new council properties which we’re keen to do.
“I’d like to build lots more council properties to meet our growing demand.”
Cllr Bithell gave the recent council development in Plas Madoc as a project he is keen to see happen elsewhere.
He added: “We’re pressing Welsh Government on a decision on the phosphates because we want to build more council housing.
“I do have concerns about the current situation and the demand for housing in Wrexham and everywhere in Wales.
“Officers are working with Welsh Government and collaboratively with other authorities to look at solutions and what they can come up with to progress.
“My understanding is that there isn’t a solution, various options have been discussed but we haven’t seen a solution that’s workable and that’s going to be acceptable.
“The sooner that can be done the better in my view. Lots and lots of building firms, not just in Wrexham but across Wales, especially in our area, the Dee catchment area, must be wondering what’s going on.”
Leader of the Council, Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind) added: “There have been discussions through the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Authority) to try to find a way to forward to move forward together to resolve the issues on the phosphates.”
While the number of people on Wrexham’s waiting list has “remained steady” at just under 4,000 in recent months according to Cllr Bithell, he is keen to reduce that number.
Cllr Bithell added: “We’ve got loads of affordable housing and council properties we’d love to build but unfortunately we can’t progress that
“As soon as we get a decision I’m sure you’ll see loads of reports coming to build council housing because we’re committed to doing that.
“Officers continuing to identify sites for housing but unable to progress any new properties due to restrictions with the phosphates issue.”
A report on the authority’s Housing Support Programme will be presented at the next Wrexham Council Executive Board meeting on Tuesday (October 11).