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15 Dec
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It’s All Change in Wales - Planning Reform and Implications

You’d be forgiven for having missed the fact that there are some pretty major planning changes on the horizon in Wales.  While national policy changes in England are widely reported, Welsh planning news can sometimes slip under the radar, but should not be overlooked.

This blog considers some of the Welsh Government documentation that has recently been consulted on and highlights the major headline proposals.

Planning (Wales) Bill

The Planning (Wales) Bill was published by Welsh Government on 6th October 2014 and sets out some key changes to the planning system which are expected to be implemented next year.  These include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

  • National Development Framework – The Bill sets out the requirement for Welsh Ministers to prepare a national land use plan.  This will identify key locations to accommodate infrastructure and provide a strategic framework for Local Development Plans.  Under this Framework, developments of national significance will be determined by Welsh Ministers.
  • Strategic Development Plans – Strategic plans will be assembled to include larger than local issues such as housing and transport infrastructure.  The three strategic planning panels will be based around Cardiff, Swansea and the A55 Corridor, with the panels being made up of two-thirds elected members and one-third members from organisations with a social, economic or environmental responsibility.
  • Joint Local Development Plans – Welsh Ministers may direct two or more Local Authorities to prepare a joint Local Development Plan. 
  • Pre-Application Consultation – There will be a statutory requirement for applicants of larger schemes to carry out meaningful pre-application community consultation, and produce a report to accompany planning applications setting out what has been done.
  • Option to make applications directly to Welsh Planning Ministers – Welsh Ministers will have the power to designate an LPA as underperforming.  Applicants in these areas will then have the right to apply directly to Welsh Ministers to have their applications determined.
  • Design and Access Statements – The requirement to provide a DAS as part of planning applications will be removed, although these documents can still be provided voluntarily.
  • Town and Village Greens - Land that has entered the planning system via a development plan or planning application would no longer be able to be designated a town or village green, to ensure that registration is not utilised to prevent development.
  • Delegated decisions – The Bill aims to provide consistency in decision making, enabling Welsh Ministers to limit the number of applications determined at committee level.
  • Planning Appeals – Proposed reforms includes the prevention of varying planning applications after an appeal has been lodged.  Cutting timescales is also emphasised, with the frontloading of evidence being encouraged.

It’s clear that some of the above proposals will bring the Welsh system in line with ours, and the majority of the proposals are welcomed by the development industry.  Others aren’t however, such as the removal of the right to vary a planning application once an appeal is lodged.  This can often prove a helpful means of narrowing down the issues, so it’s hoped that this won’t ultimately be taken forward.

Technical Advice Note 1

The Welsh Government also carried out a separate consultation last month which looked at amending Technical Advice Note 1 (TAN1), the document which sets the methodology for preparing Joint Housing Land Availability Studies (JHLAS). 

JHLAS documents set out whether an LPA has a five year housing land supply, and unlike the English system, are agreed with the Welsh Government prior to publication.

Under the current guidelines, LPAs without an up to date Local Development Plan (LDP) are able to calculate housing land supply based on past build out rates, effectively allowing those that have under-delivered in the past to benchmark against this for the future.  The proposed amendments to TAN1 remove this right, leaving LPAs who haven’t prepared an LDP unable to demonstrate a five year housing land supply. 

The changes are expected to be brought in by April 2015, which is the starting point for the next round of JHLAS documents.  This means that more LPAs will not have a five year housing land supply next year which could prove advantageous for residential developers.

Final Thoughts

We are working with a number of developers looking to bring forward schemes in Wales and are advising on the implications of the above for individuals.  Do you need some advice about how this might affect your development?  Are you interested in residential schemes in areas where LPAs will no longer be able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply?  We can help so get in touch.

Image used courtesy of PhotKing of Flickr.

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