Welsh plan set to be replaced

Welsh councils' local development plans would be required to conform with a new national strategic planning document under proposals contained in a planning bill published this week.


The bill, published by natural resources minister Carl Sargeant, proposes to replace the Wales Spatial Plan (WSP) with a national development framework (NDF) that outlines the Welsh government's land-use priorities.

The legislation would require councils' local development plans to conform with the NDF. Currently, local authorities must have regard to the WSP when preparing local plans, but they do not have to conform in the way equivalent plans do in England.

According to an explanatory note to the bill, there is "clear consensus" that the WSP "has had limited influence on the planning system". An advisory group had concluded that the WSP "did not provide a sufficient steer, at an appropriate scale, to directly influence LDPs", the note adds.

"There's a general recognition that the WSP is a little bit weak and doesn't quite deliver the direction required from the Welsh government," said Cem Kosaner, associate director at consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners.

Mark Roberts, a director in consultancy Barton Willmore's Cardiff office, said the NDP aims to be land-use led, whereas the WDP had tried to cover various policy areas, including education, health and infrastructure.

"We were very proud of the WSP, which was the first national spatial plan in the UK," Roberts said. "But it has had very little positive impact on development happening on the ground."

The bill also proposes the creation of a new tier of strategic development plans, which would also need to conform with the NDP in order to help resolve cross-boundary issues.

Paul Williams, an associate director in consultancy Savills' Cardiff office, welcomed the proposed strategic development plans, but said that there is a risk that the new tier of plans could hold up work on local development plans.

"The danger is that … with strategic plans taking people's eyes of the ball, that the local development plans might get held up further," he said.

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