Cardiff’s housebuilding target is to be revised down after new research suggested the capital’s population will grow at a slower rate than previously predicted.
But hopes it will mean more of the city’s cherished green spaces will be protected from development appear to have been dashed.
The city’s population is now estimated to increase by 49,936 people to 395,378 between 2011 and 2026, according to independent research commissioned by Cardiff council.
The 14.5% rise is lower than the previous forecast of a 19.6% increase to 408,160 people and the Welsh Government’s prediction – based on Office of National Statistics figures – of 425,374.
Councillor Ralph Cook, cabinet member for strategic planning, said as a result of the findings the Labour administration would reduce its housebuilding target.
The target in Cardiff’s Deposit Local Development Plan (LDP) will be revised down from 45,500 extra homes between 2006 and 2026, to 41,000 – a drop of almost 10%.
Housebuilders last night said fewer new homes would stifle the city’s economic growth, push up house prices and force future generations to live outside of Cardiff.
Opposition parties campaigning to protect the capital’s greenfields, however, said the decrease didn’t go far enough.
Coun Cook, pictured above, said the slower rate of growth reflected the current economic circumstances, but the LDP could accommodate an uplift in the future.
“Will everybody be happy? No. But there is good news for everybody here,” he said. “What it means is that Cardiff is thriving, we are not becoming a ghost city and people are not fleeing.”
Coun Cook said the new estimate – which he described as an “inexact science” – takes into account the 2011 Census results and changes to mid-year population estimates.
It suggests the rate of international migration into Cardiff has slowed considerably since the start of the 2008 global financial crisis.
But despite the slowdown in overseas arrivals, some 24,855 international migrants are expected to settle in the Welsh capital by 2026 – contributing half of the population growth.
The LDP, which the council must back up with evidence to gain Welsh Government approval in 2015, is a blueprint for the city’s future growth.
It proposes 18,250 homes be built on undeveloped greenfield sites, including suburbs on land west of Pentrebane (7,500 homes), either side of Pontprennau (8,000) and south of Creigiau (2,750).
Despite the lower target, Coun Cook said it would “not necessarily” result in a reduction in the number of new sites required for development.
This is because major schemes already being brought forward by developers – such as the 1,000-home estate proposed at St Edeyrn’s – don’t have the housing density the council had hoped for.
The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has previously called for 55,000 homes to be built by 2026.
Richard Price, HBF’s policy manager for Wales, said just focusing on the projected population did not give “the whole picture” of what the housing need will be.
He said if Cardiff fails to provide enough new homes, future generations will find it tough to get onto the housing ladder and be forced to look elsewhere.
“It will also hinder economic growth as companies won’t want to move to Cardiff if there is a shortage of housing and labour supply,” he added.
Conservative councillor Dianne Rees, whose Pontprennau and Old St Mellons ward will be one those most affected by the housebuilding plans, said 41,000 homes was still too many.
She said developers already granted planning permission for new housing should instead be put under pressure to start work on those existing schemes before the release of further green space.
Plaid Councillor Neil McEvoy, Plaid Cymru’s candidate for Cardiff West at the next Assembly and general elections, added: “The small reduction in figures does not alter the catastrophic impact of the LDP on Cardiff’s greenfield spaces.”
He challenged Cardiff West’s Labour AM Mark Drakeford – who previously described Cardiff’s LDP as “flawed” – to pressure his Welsh Government cabinet colleagues to place a moratorium on all LDPs.