To build or not to build? That is the question

A proposed new housing development at Tenby has created something of a storm within the town. Pembrokeshire County Council wishes to erect 145 new homes on a green field site on the outskirts of the town. Ranging from one bed flats to three storey buildings, 102 of the homes will be social housing (council houses). This is just the latest of a long list of developments that have seen Tenby expand from a very small harbour town into a sprawling town devouring the nearby countryside.

Tenby was originally contained completely within the famous town walls. Over the centuries the town has expanded outside the original boundaries commencing with the Norton (North Town) and much later the South Cliff Estate (Esplanade, Victoria Street etc). Following the last war the need for more residential property was identified and Tenby expanded rapidly – Knowling Mead, Churchill Close, the Clicketts, Upper Hill Park, Lady Park, Merlins Gardens, Oakridge Acres, Leach Way, Scotsborough View etc. The one thing all these areas have in common is that they were once green fields.

Property prices in Tenby have escalated to such an extent that many local people can no longer afford to purchase properties in the town of their birth. This house price inflation has been caused by so many people from outside the area wishing to live in Tenby and who can blame them! This is further compounded by the growth in the second home ownership market where by outsiders purchase a property in the town that they only live in for a few weeks a year hence denying the opportunity for a local person to live in that property. With a limited housing stock available and all these outside pressures prices have rocketed beyond the means of many local people, born in the town, and unable to afford to live here.

Two new developments may go some way to solve this problem. The first new development has been proposed and apparently accepted without any backlash from the existing residents. The plan is to build 29 housing association homes on a brown field site on the site of the old Reeves Calendar business at the rear of Knowling Mead. The second more controversial development mentioned above is located at Brynhir, a green open space that has been used for recreational purposes for many years.

Whether or not these two new developments will meet Tenby’s housing needs is as yet unclear. How will the social housing be allocated? Will it only be available to locals or will anyone from Pembrokeshire be allowed to move in? What exactly is the definition of a ‘local’? My definition is that it is someone born in the town or whose parents were born in the town.  If that definition is used then the new social houses will indeed meet the needs of the town. Unfortunately local councils and housing associations appear to use a much broader definition that includes significantly more people. If a broader definition is used then these two developments will not be the last. Further green spaces will be needed to meet the housing needs of people who wish to live in the town.

Does there become a time when Tenby should put a freeze on further developments? Has it reached an optimum size? Can services such as the National Health Service actually cope with hundreds of new residents moving in from outside the area? Will Tenby loose its identity as new developments result in its merger with the nearby villages of New Hedges and Penally? Will the proposed properties for open market sale (34 homes) in the Brynhir development be swallowed up as second homes or will restrictions be put upon their sale? In Cornwall many towns with the full support of Cornwall County Council have passed a bye law which stops the sale of new build homes for use as second homes. The properties have to be lived in all year not for just a few weeks a year. Is this the way forward for Tenby and Pembrokeshire? What is the view of the Pembrokeshire national park authority, an authority set up to protect the natural beauty of Pembrokeshire? They are the planning authority and it is them who will make the final decision. Future generations will judge them on the basis of their decision.

So many questions and as yet so few answers.

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