The author and others protesting the plans to build on greenfield sites. Image credit: Lorraine Gwilliam

The author and others protesting the plans to build on greenfield sites. Image credit: Lorraine Gwilliam

There has been a call for progressive parties to work as an alliance and prepare for a tough post-Brexit future within the UK.

But in the county council of Caerphilly in south Wales, a progressive alliance between the Wales Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the forward thinking members of the Labour Party, has already been established, working with members of the public to fight the Council’s Local Development Plan.

The LDP, voted through by councillors in February, is a controversial blueprint listing potential sites for development between now and 2031. The sites include many Greenfield status sites, a bypass from the town onto the already dangerous and busy mountain road to Cardiff, and the potential for 13,640 new homes to be built in the county by 2031. Prior to the council meeting to vote on the LDP, the “Gwern y Domen* Conservation Group” organised a protest outside the council offices.

After the LDP was voted through, a second campaign group was set up in protest of the LDP to protect the Greenfield sites on Caerphilly Mountain. The two groups worked together to arrange demonstrations, from an event in the town hall helping people fill out objection forms to protests at the Velothon Wales, with banners and signposts all along the cyclists’ route through Caerphilly.

On Monday 11th July 2016, the Leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council, Cllr Keith Reynolds, announced that proposals to formally withdraw the authority’s LDP will be considered next week. A report is to be given to a full meeting of the council recommending that the authority formally withdraws the Deposit Replacement Caerphilly County Borough Local Development Plan.

Jayne Garland, Chair of the Gwern y Domen Conservation Group said “We welcome the proposals to formally withdraw the authority’s Deposit Replacement Local Development Plan (LDP). The group has vigorously objected to this plan, stating from the outset that it grossly over-calculated housing units, was clearly unsustainable according to its own research and needlessly released Greenfield land where brownfield sites were undeveloped. In our objection we highlighted the fact that urban development on this scale without appropriate infrastructure or robust evidence suggesting it could be accommodated was clearly inappropriate and was unlikely to be considered sound by the Inspectorate. Therefore we feel this result was inevitable. We are now keen to help the Council produce a plan that is fit for purpose and that provides for the needs of the people of Caerphilly and the wider region.”

The Council received 4,654 individual comments and five petitions during the consultation period. The news that the LDP is likely to be rejected is the best news that we all could have hoped for.

The campaign to make the Council reconsider the LDP has involved many members of the local alliance getting hands-on including Cllr Lindsay Whittle of Plaid Cymru running around the county to Greenfield sites at risk to film videos encouraging people to object, Cllr Hefin David, Labour Assembly Member for Caerphilly, the only Labour councillor at the Council meeting who voted against the LDP, putting pressure on the Council from within the Senedd, to myself on behalf of the Green Party, attending protests, campaigning on social media, and helping laminate children’s ‘Stop the LDP’ posters at the event in the town hall. Progressive politicians, progressive parties working together in an alliance, for the people of Caerphilly.

Without the work of the local activist groups “Gwern y Domen” and “Keep Caerphilly Mountain Green” and help from Jayne Garland, Kirsty Luff, Fiona Lewis and Lynn Gazal who I worked with so closely, from Hilary and Katrina who staffed the stall at local events and from many more local activists, the voice of Caerphillly’s people may not have been heard. Thanks to their hard work, we now have a Council that can live up to its motto; ‘a greener place to live, work and visit.’

 

 

*Gwern Y Domen (G-wern a doh-men) is one of the Greenfield sites that would have been affected by the LDP

About Andrew Creak

Wales Young Greens Co-Convenor