MONMOUTHSHIRE council will continue to consider housing developments on land outside its local development plan (LDP) – despite concerns that the move “lacks transparency”.

‘Appropriate’ weight will be given to proposals for unallocated sites as the authority attempts to plug a sizeable shortfall within its five-year housing land supply.

Applications must still be acceptable in planning terms and follow specific ‘ground rules’ set by the planning department.

Such legislation was previously standard before the Welsh Government suspended it in July while a Wales-wide review of housing supply took place.

But a decision to reinstate the policy, approved by councillors last week, was deemed a misstep by a member of the public.

Helen Ronchetti, a nurse from Raglan, said: “It seems to me that today’s meeting is pivotal in deciding how Monmouthshire moves forward with its planning decision-making processes.

“As a resident, continuing to apply [the policy] undermines the democratic process of allocating land according to the LDP. The LDP allocation is subject to proper consultation and review.

“Speaking to fellow residents, I believe this leaves many people uncertain anxious and vulnerable to speculative, often large-scale, proposals outside the LDP.

“The process lacks transparency and assurance for the people of Monmouthshire.”

Local planning authorities are required to have at least a five-year housing land supply – Monmouthshire currently has a 3.9-year supply.

Under the existing LDP, the council will be 961 homes – of which 337 are affordable homes – behind the targeted completions by the end of 2021.

In March, councillors voted to scrap the existing LDP three years early and order a revised strategy to start in 2021 and run up to 2033.

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Conservative councillor Bob Greenland said Ms Ronchetti was right to be concerned as “the issue of planning concerned everyone”, adding that housing shortages are a UK-wide issue.

But the deputy leader underlined the need for more affordable homes to be built for Monmouthshire’s young people, many of whom have been forced out of county by high house prices.

“[The new LDP] will not be brought into law until 2021, and we cannot expect the first spades in the ground for further housing until a few years after that,” said Cllr Greenland.

“Are we going to wait six years for this additional housing that we need, a problem that is really on us right now?

“We are bringing this report forward so we can take on the ability to deliver housing where and when it is required by this council.”

The renewed policy had originally asked for the authority to give ‘considerable weight’ to unallocated site but the wording was changed to ‘appropriate’ by Cllr Greenland.

The change in wording caused initial confusion within the council chamber but opposition groups eventually voted to approve the proposal.