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16th January, 2014

A New Chapter For Planning In Wales

The long-awaited Planning (Wales) Bill was published in the form of a draft in December 2013. It was accompanied by a lengthy consultation document which suggests that the Bill in its final form may have more content than the draft we have now. The consultation period closes on 26 February 2014.

The Bill starts by setting out the basis for a new set of national planning policies and to encourage – or even require – joint working by local planning authorities in the preparation of local planning policies which will underpin development management decisions in the coming years.

There will be a new class of planning applications which will be made direct to Welsh Government Ministers rather than to local planning authorities. This type of application has yet to be defined in detail but will be for ‘developments of national significance.’ These should not, however, be confused with applications for development consent for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects which were introduced by the Planning Act 2008.

The Bill provides, as is the case for England under the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2011, for under-performing local planning authorities to be placed in ‘special measures’ so that applicants for certain types of planning permission (to be defined later) may choose to have their applications determined by Welsh Ministers instead of local authorities.

The Bill mirrors another ‘English’ provision which gives local planning authorities the power to decline to determine applications for retrospective planning permissions where an enforcement notice has been issued. There will also be detailed rules as to the form of planning decision notices and provisions for pre-application consultations and for pre-application services to be provided by local authorities.

One original measure – which has no counterpart in England – will be a requirement for developers to notify local planning authorities of the date when they intend to start work. This will enable the authorities to monitor compliance with conditions and ensure that what is built is what permission was granted for in the first place. Another clause is designed to ensure that once an appeal against refusal of planning permission is lodged the application on which it is based cannot be varied.

A great deal of the details needed to make the new planning laws workable will be filled in by orders and regulations. All we have now is a framework which may change considerably following the Welsh Government’s response to the outcome of the consultations and during the passage of the Bill through the Assembly. All of us concerned with Wales – whether as advisors, property owners, business people or developers –will need to be on our toes to ensure that we are across these changes and even more than previously we must be aware that, where planning is concerned, Wales is indeed ‘another country’.

For more information please contact Ian Kinloch at [email protected].

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