Immediately following environment and rural affairs questions came housing and local government questions.
Housing as a legal right
Shadow Housing Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central), praised a recent joint report by Tai Pawb, Chartered Institute of Housing and Shelter Cymru, which called for a right to housing to be enshrined in Welsh law, as well as setting out a practical road map to get there. Did the Welsh Government agree?
2019 marks the 100th anniversary of council housing as we currently know it and it David Melding thought it would be fitting to try and enshrine a right to housing into law this year.
Minister for Local Government & Housing, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West) “absolutely” agreed that the right to housing should be enshrined in law. However, there were a number of practical issues to overcome:
“….it’s not only important to make sure that people have housing as a fundamental human right, front and centre, but, actually, we’re in a position to deliver it. So if, for example, an individual has a right to enforce that, we have to have an adequate housing supply, in order for them to be able to have the houses to get into….So, whilst I absolutely fundamentally accept the purpose of the report, and concur with it, we do have a range of practical issues to consider as well.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James
Councils “failing” to properly consider the Future Generations Act
Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) said that despite Welsh Government demands that councils fully consider the Future Generations Act, there were plenty of examples of councils not doing so properly; Swansea Council by seeking to sell off foreshore land, but also in Bridgend:
“Might I just point to an example in my own region in Bridgend? Recently, there has been a consultation on removing bus services (subsidies). A report to cabinet recommending the cuts quite simply failed to do either an equalities assessment or an assessment of the future generations. They said they would do both after the consultation before a final sign-off on the decision. In other words, after a decision had been made.”
– Dr Dai Lloyd AM
The Minister couldn’t comment on particular cases, though pledged to bring the matter up with Bridgend Council’s leader. She was well aware of proposals in Swansea as well, which were out for consultation – but it was far too early to say one way or another that they were failing to comply with the Act.
Environmental considerations in planning
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) referred back to the inspector’s report on the Newport bypass. He said that while environmental issues were supposed to have equal weight to socio-economic considerations, it was clear there was an inconsistency given that the First Minister put more weight on the environment than the inspector. How many decisions would’ve been different under the same circumstances?
Mandy Jones AM (BXP, North Wales) also asked for proper consideration for the protection of urban and rural wildlife.
The Minister didn’t think these were particularly fair points. There will always be an element of subjectivity when considering decisions like these. If people want to have a say in the planning rules then they should take part in local development plans – so she welcomed views on how to better engage the public in the planning process.