Improve Wales’ Planning & Housing Policy and create a Rural Powerhouse

The second session of the Senedd Cross Party Group inquiry into rural productivity generated some strong recommendations for action.
CPG 14.3.23.
Samuel Kurtz MS hears evidence from expert witnesses: council leaders, academia and business, as he chairs the second session in Wales’ first Senedd inquiry into the rural economy.

“The urgent and specific needs of Wales’ rural economy are being revealed as we reach the half way stage in the first formal Senedd inquiry into rural productivity,” says Samuel Kurtz MS, Chair of the Senedd Cross party Group (CPG) on Rural Growth.

“We need to redefine the role of our planning system and make it easier to apply and navigate. We must tackle the land nutrient crisis which has created an effective moratorium on development; we need to focus on a strategy to encourage the development of sustainable economic hubs which are supported by the power and connectivity infrastructure they need. And the Welsh Government needs to balance the formulae firstly between market-value and affordable homes – and secondly in the law between residential landlords and tenants interests – to increase rural housing capacity.”

“The inquiry has already heard that the rural economy is too large and important not to be managed by a clear Welsh Government strategy, and that a development body should be created to focus on its specific needs. Wales is largely a rural country and our rural economy needs to be active year-round supporting a vibrant rural community – it’s not just for tourists and visitors - it must be a rural powerhouse which is a vital and integrated part of the national economy.”

“Our second session deep-dive into the role of the planning system and into rural housing, generated important feedback about policy in both areas and how it’s delivered on the ground. As things stand, the planning system is designed to deliver growth. It’s there to carry out another job of providing environmental and other protection. However blanket policies to tackle the soil nutrient crisis and flooding, for example, are apparently being applied in some areas where issues don’t apply and sustainable development should take place to fulfil the critical social priorities such as provision of affordable homes.”

“We have a rural socio-economic dilemma in which Wales’ rural demographics – a sparse and ageing population – are both the cause and result of a cycle which must be broken. The key must be a clear rural strategy for responsible development to meet the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Goals – which include social and economic objectives.”

“The session heard that a glass wall exists between local authorities which share similar issues and which hinders growth: we need a more joined-up approach not only between councils, but between our local authorities and the Welsh Government.”

“The session benefitted from input from expert witnesses: two rural council leaders, Cllr Lis Burnett from the Vale of Glamorgan and Cllr James Gibson-Watt from Powys. We received academic input from Prof Calvin Jones from Cardiff Business School and vital evidence from Ben Francis from Wales-based house-builder, Hygrove Homes, and finally from the CLA’s Chief Surveyor, Andrew Shirley.”

Samuel Kurtz says, “Two sessions into our inquiry, I’m grateful for all the valuable evidence we’ve received. Our next meetings will focus on tourism and farming and the food-chain – both are pillars of our rural economy.”

Anybody can submit evidence to the Senedd CPG on Rural Growth inquiry into Rural Productivity following guidelines here.