A New Chapter For Planning in Wales
28th October, 2014
The long-awaited Planning (Wales) Bill started its passage through the National Assembly at the beginning of October 2014. Welsh Ministers have made it clear that they are looking for a culture change in Welsh planning and the Bill is designed to further this aim. The Bill is a lengthy document but it is worth pointing out just a few of the salient features.
Welsh Ministers are to produce a new National Development Framework which will set out the key policies to guide planning nationally. The Local Development Plans drawn up by authorities in Wales will have to conform to the National Framework but the Bill goes further. Ministers will have power to establish cross-authority Strategic Planning Partnerships to draw up what, in effect, will be joint development plans.
The role and powers of Welsh Ministers will be extended. There will be a new category of ‘developments of national significance’ which will be dealt with by Ministers and not by local planning authorities. What kinds of development will come into this category will be defined at a later date. In addition to this there will be a provision mirroring that in England by which ‘under-performing’ local planning authorities may find Ministers taking over their powers to decide certain other types of planning application.
One interesting provision which has no counterpart in England is that in future, once planning permission has been granted, developers will be required to notify the planning authority of exactly when then they intend to start work on site. This will obviously assist the authorities in monitoring matters such as pre-commencement conditions.
Finally, Welsh Ministers are especially keen on ‘front-loading’ the development management process and to this end there will be a requirement for pre-application advice and consultations for certain types of development.
When the Bill becomes law – probably sometime in the summer or autumn of 2015 – it will mark a further step in giving planning law a distinct Welsh character. All stakeholders with any business, land or professional interests in Wales need to be aware of this. Indeed, it has been clear for some time that it is unsafe – indeed dangerous – to assume that what goes for England applies equally on the other side of Offa’s Dyke!
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