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Written Statement - Planning Bill

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John Griffiths, Minster for Environment and Sustainable Development

The Welsh Government has made significant progress to reform the planning system.  Since devolution up to date national planning policies have been put in place.  These policies reflect our commitment to deliver sustainable development, economic renewal and affordable homes.  To assist delivery at the local level, a new local development plan system has been introduced.  Work is also underway to improve the planning application process.

The Legislative Statement 2011-16 includes a commitment to introduce a Planning Bill to consolidate existing legislation and make the planning system more transparent and accessible.  A White Paper setting out our proposals will be published during 2013 followed by the introduction of a Planning Bill into the Assembly.

Delivery is our priority for the fourth Assembly term.  The planning system is an important delivery agent for a wide range of social, economic and environmental policies where sustainable decisions about the future development and use of land need to be made.  The key challenge for the Planning Bill will be to put in place a flexible framework which supports the delivery of Welsh Government policy, in an efficient and effective way, whilst retaining public confidence over the future use and development of land.

The delivery arrangements for the planning system have remained largely unaltered since 1947.  The Welsh Government is responsible for the framework within which the planning system operates.  Twenty five planning authorities deliver of the planning system locally.  The previous Sustainability Committee of the National Assembly undertook an Inquiry into the Planning System in Wales; their report was published earlier this year.  The Committee received evidence of the pressures faced by local planning officers in delivering the planning system, including the growing requirement for greater specialist technical expertise.  The Simpson Review Local, Regional, National: What services are best delivered where? has given initial consideration to future roles and responsibilities in the planning system.

As part of the evidence base for the Planning Bill, I have today announced the establishment of an independent review to consider options on how to deliver the planning system in the future.  The review will be conducted by an independent advisory group under the chairmanship of the former Welsh Director of the Planning Inspectorate, John Davies.  An announcement on other members of the independent advisory group will be made shortly.

The independent advisory group has been tasked to:

  • Identify the key policy objectives that the planning system is required to deliver now and in the future;
    • Assess existing institutional delivery arrangements, noting areas of good practice and areas in need of improvement; and,
  • Propose options for the future delivery of the planning system, including plan making and development management services.

The review will deliver a report by the end of May 2012 that makes recommendations about:

  • Options for future delivery of the planning system including a preferred approach;
  • The primary and secondary legislation and policy and guidance necessary to introduce the identified options and preferred approach;
  • An assessment, on an all Wales basis, of the resources necessary, in terms of staff numbers and costs, to deliver the identified options and preferred approach; and 
  • Any identified quick wins.

The Independent Advisory Group will issue a call for evidence during October.