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Written Statement - Introduction of the Planning (Wales) Bill

Carl Sargeant, Minister for Natural Resources

The Planning (Wales) Bill (‘the Bill’) has been introduced today, 6 October 2014.

The Planning (Wales) Bill introduces a series of legislative changes informed by a comprehensive evidence base and extensive consultation to deliver reform of the Welsh planning system to ensure that it is fair, resilient and enables development.  Taken together with proposed changes to secondary legislation, policy and guidance, the Bill will support delivery of the homes, jobs and infrastructure that Wales requires, whilst providing opportunities to protect and enhance our most important built and natural environments and support the use of the Welsh language.

The Bill addresses 5 key objectives:

  • Modernised framework for the delivery of planning services;
  • Strengthening the plan led approach;
  • Improved resilience;
  • Frontloading and improving the development management system; and
  • Effective enforcement and appeals.

The objectives are delivered through the various sections and provisions within the Bill.  These include:

Development Planning

Part 2 of the Bill strengthens the plan-led approach to decisions on planning applications by providing a legal framework for the preparation of a National Development Framework and Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) where required.  Both plans will incorporate effective consultation opportunities.  The arrangements for SDPs will reflect established arrangements for Local Development Plans, including the preparation of a community involvement scheme, describing when and how communities can engage in the plan preparation process.  The Local Development Plan process will also be fine tuned based on lessons learned from those authorities which have successfully adopted plans.  This includes enhancement of the legislative framework to ensure that Joint Local Development Plans are prepared where appropriate, and Local Development Plans are kept up to date and relevant for planning decisions.

The Bill also provides the legislative basis for more effective collaboration at the local level; existing powers have been amended to create more resilient local planning authorities with extended responsibilities and access to a wider range of specialist skills.  The legislation fully complements the wider proposals to reform local public service delivery.

Pre -application procedure

Part 3 of the Bill makes provision for statutory pre-application community consultation and requires the Welsh Ministers and local planning authorities to provide pre application services. Pre-application procedures help to build understanding between developers, communities, local planning authorities and statutory consultees, allowing any significant concerns to be identified and addressed early in the planning process.

Applications to Welsh Ministers

Part 4 of the Bill proposes an enhanced role for the Welsh Ministers.  This is to be achieved through the Welsh Ministers acquiring decision making responsibility for planning applications for Developments of National Significance, including energy projects of between 25 and 50 megawatts.  The legislation provides meaningful opportunities for local communities to participate in the process.

To ensure that everybody has access to a good quality local planning service, robust and consistent standards for monitoring the performance of local planning authorities and statutory consultees will be introduced.  This will be backed up by sanctions for persistent poor performance, including the option for applicants to submit planning applications for major development directly to the Welsh Ministers for determination where the relevant local planning authority are deemed to be poorly performing.

Development Management

Part 5 of the Bill improves the effectiveness and consistency of local planning services by making a series of improvements to development management processes. Changes include ensuring statutory consultees provide timely and substantive responses to the determining body on planning application proposals.

The Bill proposes a right of appeal against a local planning authority not validating a planning application. This proposal will enable a quick resolution to any disputes over what information is required for a valid application.

Reforms to planning committee procedures are proposed to deliver greater consistency and efficiency by the establishment of a national scheme of delegation and prescribing a size for committees.

Other improvements to the development management system, including introducing a new form of planning decision notice for a development and  for developers to notify the local planning authority when the development has begun and fix a notice on or near the site to ensure that communities are informed of how and when a development will proceed. These changes will provide greater clarity, transparency and certainty for all stakeholders, including local communities, in the development management process.

Enforcement and Appeals

Part 6 of the Bill makes changes to enforcement procedures to secure prompt, meaningful action against breaches of planning control and also limit the possibility of offenders delaying enforcement action, helping to maintain community confidence in the planning system.

The Bill will introduce changes to the planning appeals process to reduce the time taken to determine an appeal. Improvements to the planning appeals system will assist professionals and developers who are seeking swifter decisions to provide necessary sustainable development and stimulate economic growth. The improvements will also aid communities and the public by providing a system that ensures greater fairness and transparency.

Town and Village Greens

Part 7 of the Bill introduces changes to the commons registration process for town and village greens.   It is proposed to introduce a number of restrictions on the ability to make an application where certain events related to the planning system have occurred, and to allow landowners to effectively give permission to use land for the purposes of sports and pastimes, rather than that use being accrued ‘as of right’.  The proposals provide a means of striking a better balance between protecting high quality green space valued by local communities and enabling development to occur where it has gone through the planning process.
The Planning (Wales) Bill is supported by an explanatory memorandum, regulatory impact assessment and explanatory notes. The responses to the Positive Planning Consultation Paper and Draft Planning (Wales) Bill, December 2013 has been published:

http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/planning/draft-planning-wales-bill/?status=closed&lang=en

Consultations

The following consultations have been published to accompany the Bill, including:  

  • Frontloading the development management system;
  • Review of planning application fees;
  • Planning Committees, delegation and joint planning boards;
  • Design in the planning process; and
  • Power to override Easements and other Rights.

A Welsh Government Circular has also been issued on “Use of Planning Conditions for Development Management”.

Details of the consultations can be found on the Welsh Government’s consultation pages at:
http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/planning

Deregulation

Amendments have been made to the secondary legislation covering the permitted development rights for Development by electronic communications code operators (Wales). These follow proposals in our consultation paper last year and which will come into force in November.

The national development management policy on sustainable buildings was withdrawn and TAN22 was cancelled earlier this year. This has reduced duplication, time and costs for developers, whilst Building Regulations will enable us to continue to secure low carbon buildings in the future.

The Welsh Government has also introduced amendments to the General Permitted Development Order to provide householders, industry, business and educational institutions with more flexibility to make changes to their homes and premises without the need for planning permission.