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Report on Merthyr Tydfil LDP progress finds council hitting targets on affordable homes

The new local development plan for Merthyr Tydfil is hitting its targets on affordable homes and town centre vacancy rates but it is missing them on job creation and the improvement of open spaces.

Those are the findings of a report set to go before the council’s neighbourhood services, planning and countryside committee on Monday, November 1.

The 2021 annual monitoring report looks at the performance of the replacement LDP (Local Development Plan) which covers the period from 2016 to 2031.

The replacement LDP was adopted in January 2020 and is a plan for how land will be used throughout the county borough excluding the area that lies within Brecon Beacons National Park.

The annual monitoring report found that the parts of the plan that were working well and on target included overall housing delivery which it said is broadly at the level required at this point in the plan period with targets being met in relation to the number of affordable homes built which at April 2021 stood at 88 and the number of houses built in areas of growth outside the main growth area.

There were 31 affordable houses secured on-site as part of the Former St
Tydfil’s Hospital site, accounting for 45% of the total dwellings and as of March 2021, 77 units have been secured through planning obligations.

It also said that the majority of development, 20.4 hectares out of 26.4 hectares (77.3%) has been permitted on previously developed land and Merthyr Tydfil town centre has a lower vacancy rate (number of empty shops) than the Welsh average according to the Welsh Retail Consortium.

The total amount of vacant units in Merthyr Tydfil town centre was 14.07% in July 2020 compared to 15.9% in Wales as a whole.

The report added that policies that aim to protect environmental and historic status have been implemented effectively with “no development granted contrary to the relevant policies” and that the target for electricity generating renewable energy development across the county borough has been met.

But the areas for improvements include the delivery of allocated employment land and the number of jobs delivered where targets are not being met.

There has not been any development on allocated employment sites over this initial monitoring period of the replacement LDP but the report said that due to the nature of employment developments being relatively large in terms of area and floorspace this is likely to happen irregularly and in sudden increases
rather than in smaller regular increments.

These are mainly large sites aimed at single, large employers, and
with their associated infrastructure costs, may only prove to be more attractive when market conditions improve and/or when specialist users are found.

Discussions in relation to a significant development on a site on Goatmill Road are ongoing and the council anticipates that the planning application for this will be submitted in the near future.

It also said a target is not being met in relation to the improvement of priority open spaces using funding gained through the planning system and that the target for heat generating renewable energy development across the
county borough has not been met.

No priority open spaces have benefited from Section 106 (S106) or Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding during this monitoring period.

But a number of other open spaces benefited from S106 and CIL funding, including land at the Shingrig, Trelewis and Pearls Playground in Heolgerrig.

The council has also recently improved a significant capital programme to refurbish or replace existing playgrounds across the county borough in order to improve the quality and accessibility of play provision.

In terms of what to do next, the report mentioned working with colleagues in the strategic housing department and registered social landlords to increase the delivery of housing particularly around affordable housing and the homelessness issue that has arisen over the past year.

It also suggests working with the estates and regeneration departments to deliver strategic development projects such as Merthyr Tydfil town centre and the Hoover Strategic Regeneration Area.

Another aim is delivering high quality open space, sports and play provision through working with the street scene department and helping to ensure that the 21st Century Schools Programme is delivered as efficiently as possible through early engagement with the education department and other interested parties particularly on site selection.

The report said: “It is encouraging that the strategy and policies of the Replacement LDP have been working effectively since adoption, however there are early indications that housing delivery and the delivery of employment land may require particular focus over the next few years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the economy. How we recover from the pandemic, and how successful the LDP strategy will be, are intrinsically linked.”

It said it is crucial to deliver from a “quantitative perspective” on houses, open space, employment facilities and other infrastructure that is needed by the residents of Merthyr Tydfil but also from a qualitative perspective ensuring that the appropriate development is located in the appropriate location, making sure that these developments all fit together.

It said: “The lower level of overall growth proposed in the Replacement LDP, in comparison to the previous plan, will enable greater focus to take place on the quality of new developments as there will not be as much pressure to develop every piece of available land as soon as possible.”

An annual monitoring report of the LDP must be produced and sent to Welsh Government by the end of each October.

Following the 2015 annual monitoring report, the council prepared a review report that identified key issues in the implementation of the adopted LDP for 2006-2021.

In particular, issues in terms of the level of growth were highlighted so a full review of the LDP and the preparation of a replacement LDP were recommended.

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