Sargeant publishes Welsh Planning Bill

Plans to introduce a new tier of strategic development plans to resolve cross-boundary issues in Wales and to give ministers powers to decide more major projects are contained in a Planning Bill published by natural resources minister Carl Sargeant.

Sargeant: introduction of Bill is beginning of an exciting period for planning in Wales
Sargeant: introduction of Bill is beginning of an exciting period for planning in Wales

The Bill, published yesterday, includes plans to address cross-boundary strategic planning issues by introducing a new tier of strategic development plans (SDPs).

According to an explanatory memorandum, the SDPs "will allow larger than local issues such as housing demand, search areas for strategic employment sites and supporting transport infrastructure, which cut across a number of planning authorities, to be considered and planned for in an integrated and comprehensive way".

According to the memorandum, three areas have been provisionally identified as benefitting from strategic plans, focussed on Cardiff, Swansea and the A55 corridor.

The Bill also proposes measures to enable planning applications to be submitted to the Welsh ministers for determination in the first instance. It makes provision for a new category of development to be known as Development of National Significance.

Such applications could include energy generation projects in the range of 25-50MW, the explanatory memorandum suggests.

Also contained in the Bill is proposal to allow for a planning application to be submitted directly to the Welsh ministers if a local planning authority is performing poorly.

"Poor performance has serious consequences including acting as a barrier to economic growth, increasing costs and reducing certainty for both developers and the local community," the memorandum says.

Sargeant said: "Planning is at the heart of our communities, from building an extension on a house to building a new local school.

"The introduction of this Bill is the beginning of an exciting period for planning in Wales and I will soon be putting in place additional measures to ensure that the Bill’s objectives are met in full."

RTPI Cymru Chair, Emma Langmaid, said: "We supported the evidence based approach taken by the minister and the general thrust and spirit of the proposals set out in the Positive Planning consultation exercise and the earlier draft Bill. We are pleased that many of those provisions have carried through into the Bill published today, including those our members strongly argued for, including proposals for a National Development Framework and Strategic Development Plans.

"We strongly believe there is a need to embed a new proactive and confident culture within planning in Wales, to boost economic prosperity and to create better places for our communities to live and work.

"Planners, politicians, consultees, developers, and the general public, all have a role to play in achieving this. We look forward to scrutinising and responding to the proposals in more detail shortly."

Planning (Wales) Bill is available here.

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