December 6, 2020

Wales News Online

Local and National news for Wales

Housebuilder fears that extra biodiversity requirements will push up house prices

New homes could become more expensive if additional measures to protect wildlife and biodiversity are introduced in Swansea, a housebuilder has claimed.

Hygrove Homes also claimed Swansea Council’s planning guidance could deter developers from building first-time buyer homes and impact the financial contributions for roads and schools which builders sometimes have to make as part of a planning consent.

No decisions have been made as yet on Swansea Council’s draft development and biodiversity supplementary planning guidance.

The authority has been consulting on the proposed measures, which set out how it will seek to ensure that new development “maintains and enhances the county’s biodiversity and delivers long-term ecosystem resilience”.

This focus on biodiversity is one of the council’s corporate priorities and is also in line with its duties under the 2016 Environment (Wales) Act.

In its response to the consultation Hygrove Homes said it “shares the council’s ambition that Swansea’s natural assets are safeguarded for the enjoyment of future generations”.

But it claimed the proposed guidance will lengthen the planning process because an ecologist’s views would need to be taken into account.

It claimed costs would be increased with monitoring fees, meaning that some development sites – particularly brownfield ones which required cleaning-up – might not be brought forward.

Hygrove Homes further claimed that any requirement to manage ecological features at new housing developments could result in the new occupiers having to pay monthly contributions.

It said the council’s proposed new planning guidance came at a time when new drainage measures in Wales and the possible introduction of Welsh Government “space standards” for new properties would mean fewer houses per acre.

It claimed this in turn “will force developers to increase house prices, reducing the number of potential first-time buyers in the county”.

The company, which said it built around 80 homes a year in Swansea, has asked the council to postpone any decisions until the Welsh Government’s consultation on space standards is published and there is further clarity regarding Covid-19.

The council’s consultation has now ended and will be put forward for adoption in the new year.

A spokesman for the council said much of Swansea’s natural environment was protected by specific designations such as sites of special interest and the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

He said: “There are however many sites not covered by such designations and so it’s vital we do all we can as a planning authority to ensure that when planning applications come forward for housing development we not only have adequate planning policies in place but we also have established supplementary planning guidance which can support our policies.

“This will ensure that we can protect and enhance our natural environment.”

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