Welsh national planning policy launched

A new Welsh national planning policy document which states that economic benefits should be given the same consideration as social and environmental issues when councils are drawing up local plans has been published.

Welsh planning minister John Griffiths
Welsh planning minister John Griffiths

The Welsh government's updated Planning Policy Wales provides the policy framework for the preparation of local planning authorities’ development plans.

The document states that local planning authorities "should recognise that there will be occasions when the economic benefits [of a scheme] will outweigh social and environmental considerations".

The policy also states that:

  • Plans and decisions should be also be based on up-to-date and locally specific evidence which demonstrates the suitability of the existing employment land supply in relation to the requirements of business.
  • As part of the process of establishing a local evidence base, local planning authorities should undertake, and keep under review, an employment land review that is relevant to prevailing market conditions and the requirements of the development plan.
It also stipulates that council planning departments should support the move towards a low carbon economy by, for example, encouraging the development of clusters of industrial and commercial uses that derive environmental benefit from co-location.

Planning departments are also instructed by the document to look favourably on proposals for new on-site low carbon energy generation such as energy from waste facilities.

The policy also states that in instances where development plan policies are "outdated or superseded", local planning authorities should give them decreasing weight in favour of other material considerations, such as national planning policy, in the determination of individual applications.

"This will ensure that decisions are based on policies which have been written with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development," the document adds.

Environment minister John Griffiths said: "This new policy is about balance. It recognises that jobs and growth are essential to Wales’ economy, but also recognises that we must never lose sight of the other factors that are vital to people’s long term quality of life.  

"The policy calls on local planning authorities to establish a robust evidence base of the economic characteristics of their particular areas and to use this evidence when making decisions and when developing their local development plans. This should help ensure decision making is based on a realistic assessment of demand."

He added that councils should consult their economic development officers on proposals which have the potential to generate or retain jobs locally so that the "potential benefits of such developments can be fully understood".

RTPI Cymru director Roisin Willmott said that the new Planning Policy Wales would give local planning authorities a "greater steer on looking for economic considerations" when determining planning policies.

She added that, previously, economic considerations were not as clearly articulated in national planning policy as environmental concerns, which are protected by habitat regulations.

Planning Policy Wales can be read here.

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