New Planning Policy Wales promotes 'well-being' and place-making

Measures to embed place-making, 'active travel', and the well-being of future generations in the planning system alongside restrictions on the extraction and use of fossil fuels are included in the new version of Wales' national planning policy document.

Cycling: 'active transport' now embedded in Welsh planning policy
Cycling: 'active transport' now embedded in Welsh planning policy

The final version of the refreshed Planning Policy Wales, published yesterday, is intended to underpin all future planning decisions in the devolved nation. A draft version of the document was published for consultation in May

The new document has a focus on place-making, which the Welsh Government defined as an approach to development "which ensures communities have all the services they need within easy reach and development is of high quality".

Planning Policy Wales (edition 10) says its "primary objective" is to ensure that the planning system "contributes towards the delivery of sustainable development and improves the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales", as required by legislation including the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015,and the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013.

The document says the Well-being of Future Generations Act places a duty on public bodies to carry out sustainable development, requiring "an improvement in the delivery of all four aspects of well-being: social, economic, environmental and cultural".

The Active Travel (Wales) Act "makes walking and cycling the preferred option for shorter journeys, particularly everyday journeys, such as to and from a workplace or education establishment, or in order to access health, leisure or other services or facilities", the document says.

Among its policies, the new Planning Policy Wales includes measures to promote "active travel". 

Its policy require developments to be "easily accessible by walking, cycling and public transport, by virtue of their location, design and provision of on and off site sustainable transport infrastructure".

The document also includes a new policy on ultra low emission vehicles which requires new non-residential developments to have charging points in at least 10 per cent of the spaces available.

According to the Welsh Government, this is the first national policy of its kind in the UK.

Another policy will require planning authorities to define areas where wind and solar developments will be permitted and allows councils to set "challenging, but achievable targets for renewable energy in development plans". 

It also includes new restrictions on the extraction and use of fossil fuels. It says the Welsh Government "has set challenging targets for decarbonisation and increased renewable energy generation" and the "continued extraction of all fossil fuels, including shale gas, coal bed methane and underground coal gasification, are not compatible with those targets".

The document says planning decisions should help create, restore and manage "green networks and linkages" between habitats but - unlike the current English proposals - does not not place a mandatory requirement on biodiversity net gain.

Instead "planning decisions should not compromise the condition of ecosystems," the document says.

By taking an integrated approach to development "it should be possible to make a positive contribution", it adds.

Cabinet secretary for energy, planning and rural affairs, Lesley Griffiths said: "I want to make sure when planners and developers are formulating their plans and schemes, they think first and foremost about the people who will live there and how they will go about their everyday lives – something which doesn’t always happen.

"This involves thinking about environmental, social, cultural as well as economic needs, including the impact on both mental and physical health, caused by new developments.

"The new Planning Policy Wales will ensure we have well-designed spaces which will benefit future generations."

Consultancy Savills' head of planning in Cardiff, Tim Gent, said: "The final version looks better than the draft and Welsh Government’s willingness to listen is welcome.

"I remain concerned that it won’t be as easy to navigate through as previous editions and that key messages are a little lost.

"However, it’s difficult to argue with the document’s intentions – we just need to apply them positively to ensure they don’t backfire."

Savills' full response can be read here. 

The Law Commission yesterday published a report setting out 193 suggested technical changes to planning law as it applies in Wales.

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