Law Commission drops proposal to scrap outline planning consent in Wales

A proposal to scrap outline planning permission has been dropped from a final report of a Law Commission review into ways to simplify planning law in Wales.

Welsh Goverment: review sets out recommended planning law changes
Welsh Goverment: review sets out recommended planning law changes

The review, which started in 2016, was commissioned by the Welsh Government.

A consultation document, published in November 2017, said that "complex and overlapping planning laws – contained in over 30 Acts of Parliament – slow down the development process, confuse applicants for planning permission and generate unnecessary bureaucracy and cost". 

The Law Commission, a statutory independent body, has now published its final report on the issue, setting out 193 suggested technical changes to planning law as it applies in Wales.

The document drops a consultation suggestion that outline planning permission should be replaced with a new "single procedure whereby anyone proposing to carry out development that is not permitted by a development order – or seeking to authorise development that has already been carried out – needs to make a planning application, accompanied by sufficient material to describe the development".

The report says the proposal has been dropped "in the light of concern expressed by a number of consultees as to the effect of such a change on investor confidence".

Amongst its other recommendations, the document says the Welsh Government "should issue guidance discouraging the creation of any unnecessary burdens by the imposition of inappropriate [pre-commencement] conditions".

Other recommendations include:

  • making clear the principles underlying the planning system in Wales
  • simplifying the law as to when planning permission is required
  • clarifying the status of outline planning applications
  • tightening up the law on pre-commencement conditions
  • enabling planning obligations to be entered into by prospective purchasers
  • rationalising penalties for breaches of planning control
  • simplifying the authorisation of works to listed buildings
  • enabling landowners to discover when they need various special consents
  • enabling authorities to remove unauthorised advertisement hoardings
  • tightening up control over works to protected trees
  • simplifying the law on High Court challenges
  • clarifying the definition of some technical terms

The report also proposes repealing many unused pieces of legislation, including those relating to planning inquiry commissions, simplified planning zones, enterprise zones, new towns, urban development corporations, rural development boards, archaeological areas, and advertisement appeals tribunals.

The Law Commission said most of these "have not been used for thirty years or more and some have never been used at all".

According to the Law Commission, the Welsh Government will provide an interim response to the report by the end of May 2019, and a detailed response by the end of November 2019.

The commission said that it hopes that the proposals in the report "will form a key input into a new Planning (Wales) Bill, possibly alongside a new Historic Environment (Wales) Bill – to be laid before the Assembly during this assembly term".

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