Plenary Wednesday 25th January 2017

Spoken Contribution - 17:13:46

Hence, we in UKIP support the motion. But we do also have to acknowledge that it is often difficult to translate laudable aims into effective practical measures.

Thanks to David Melding for bringing the debate today. A lot of the issues under discussion today were also touched on, to some extent, in yesterday’s Government debate about creating better local environments. These terms ‘creating better local environments’ and ‘liveable cities’—this kind of thing—I do find a rather all-embracing subject matter, so it is sometimes difficult to know where to start in these kinds of debates.

The motion specifically mentions city regions as drivers of economic development, which theoretically, yes, could be a central concept, although it’s not a new idea, as the coastal cities of Cardiff and Swansea always had their economic hinterlands in the Valleys, where the iron ore and then the coal was being mined. So, the city region concept is, up to a point, merely recognition of these long-established economic hinterlands. The problem is that, since the closure of the extractive industries, like coal mining, more and more people living in the Valleys have been obliged to travel down to the cities for work. This is causing major problems of road congestion and overcrowding on trains. In the Cardiff city region, we know that the metro is coming at some point, so this may ultimately alleviate these problems. But, in the meantime, travelling into Cardiff is something of a nightmare.

The dreadful congestion also worsens the air quality for everyone, including the city’s residents, which we were discussing yesterday. Tree planting and other schemes can alleviate this problem, but I fear these programmes will ultimately provide only a small mitigation from the extra environmental pressures caused by major house building in Cardiff suburbs, much of it, indeed, on the green belt, as Neil McEvoy was just alluding to. And although his synopsis may have appeared bleak, I must confess I do share most of his foreboding about the future for Cardiff. The house-building programme is caused by the city’s population expansion. Is this expansion a good thing or a bad thing? To me, it appears to threaten the very liveability of the city as green spaces disappear. So, on reflection, I don’t regard it as a good thing. The house-building programme: does it even bring much in the way of affordable housing, another issue mentioned in today’s motion? Well, often, alas, it does not. Most of the housing schemes are largely private developments with only a small element of social housing.

Yes, we know there are cycling and walking schemes being pushed by the Welsh Government as part of their active travel programme. But this clashes with the reality of successive school reorganisations forcing parents to send their kids to schools further and further away—hence the traffic chaos of the school run. I note that schools do have the ability to be flexible with the time of the school day. I wonder in what ways local councils can encourage them to do this more often, because this could help mitigate the congestion if enough schools could be persuaded to be more flexible.

Another major impact on population expansion is the rapid increase in the student population, which also takes up a lot of space and is by no means a development to be unreservedly welcomed. Many students drive these days, hence more traffic and parking problems ensue. We do acknowledge that the aims of the Conservative proposal are laudable ones. Hence, we in UKIP support the motion. But we do also have to acknowledge that it is often difficult to translate laudable aims into effective practical measures. Thank you.