The Planning (Wales) Bill

06 October 2014

Article written by Graham Winter, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

planning

Image from FreeFoto, licensed under Creative Commons.

The Minister for Natural Resources has introduced a Planning (Wales) Bill today and is due to make an Oral Statement in the Chamber on Tuesday 7 October 2014. The Bill as introduced and the Explanatory Memorandum can be found on the National Assembly for Wales’ website here.

In his July 2014 oral statement on the Legislative Programme, the First Minister said that the Welsh Government wants communities to be able to influence how places grow and change and to remove unduly regulatory obstacles that frustrate business growth. To achieve this, he said:

… we will need a positive, enabling planning system that facilitates, rather than frustrates development; a planning system that will help us to deliver the homes, jobs and infrastructure that Wales requires. (…) It will provide for a modernised service delivery framework that will complement our proposed public service reforms

The key changes that the Bill seeks to introduce are:

  • A requirement for the Welsh Government to produce a national land use plan, to be known as the National Development Framework, replacing the Wales Spatial Plan that hasn’t been updated since 2008;
  • The creation of Strategic Development Plans to tackle larger than local authority cross boundary issues;
  • Some changes to Local Development Plan procedures;
  • Front loading the development management process by making provision for pre-application services;
  • Introducing a new category of development to be known as “Developments of National Significance” that are to be determined by Welsh Ministers – these are major planning applications that are currently decided by Local Planning Authorities;
  • Changes to “streamline” the development management system;
  • Changes to enforcement and appeal procedures; and
  • Prohibiting applications being made to register land as a Town or Village Green where the land has entered the planning system – replicating changes already introduced in England by the Localism Act 2011.

The Bill mostly seeks to amend the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The Welsh Government has also proposed a Planning Consolidation Bill, but this is not now likely to be introduced until the Fifth Assembly.

The idea of a separate Planning Bill for Wales was put forward by the Sustainability Committee of the Third Assembly in early 2011. Following an inquiry into the planning system, the Committee recommended that “the Welsh Government should bring forward an Assembly Act to consolidate existing land use planning legislation and make it distinct to meet the needs of Wales.”

The idea was then included in the legislative programme after the May 2011 election. The Welsh Government established an Independent Advisory Group (IAG) to review the delivery of the planning system in Wales as part of the evidence base for a White Paper, leading ultimately to a Welsh Planning Bill. The IAG published its report in June 2012 containing 97 recommendations to the Welsh Government. A number of other research reports on different aspects of the planning system that are available on the Welsh Government’s website have also fed into the development of the Bill.

The Welsh Government then published Positive Planning, a consultation paper on reforming the planning system in Wales in December 2013. A Draft Planning (Wales) Bill was also published at the same time. According to the consultation paper “many of the proposals put forward by the IAG are being taken forward.”

The Positive Planning consultation covered more than just the Bill itself, but also set out proposals for new Secondary Legislation, Guidance and changes to planning policy and training. A key theme of the paper was the need for ‘culture change’ in the planning system. The consultation period ended on 26 February 2014.

The Environment and Sustainability Committee carried out pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Bill and the broader package of Positive Planning proposals earlier this year. It reviewed the evidence base that the Welsh Government used to inform its proposals, including the work of the IAG and considered how this was reflected in the government’s proposals.

The Committee wrote to the Minister of Housing and Regeneration in April 2014 setting out its views on the reform package and on the Draft Bill.

There are no significant changes between the proposals set out in the Draft Bill and in the revised version introduced today.

The Environment and Sustainability Committee will be considering the general principles of the Bill in November and December and will launch a consultation at the end of this week.