Wales' national planning policy revised: Savills response

Welsh Government today published its latest version of Planning Policy Wales (PPW). It sets out the direction of national planning policy and connects it to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

It is very different to its predecessor and keeps many of the key amendments found in the consultation draft earlier in the year. As a result whilst the text has been adjusted (helpfully in places) it is still quite a difficult document to read – with an array of terms and guidance ranging from planning principles and ways of working to well-being goals and themes.

The headlines from the document are:

  • Collaboration between local authorities continues, although the expectation that Joint Local Development Plans (JLDPs) should be prepared "in most cases" has been dropped.
  • The definition of Previously Developed Land has seen some minor amendments, together with the search sequence that is based around it.
  • ‘New settlements’ should only be proposed as part of a JLDP, Strategic Development Plan (SDP) or National Development Framework (NDF). The document does not define what new settlements are but suggests they need to be self contained, linked to high frequency public transport and include "essential" social infrastructure.
  • The approach to urban extensions has changed (and the additional controls on schemes of 1,000+ dwellings threatened in the draft have been removed). Savills had argued such a limit would not be helpful given the glacial progress of JLDPs, SDPs and the NDF.
  • A five year supply of housing land remains a ‘must have’ for local authorities.
  • Green Belts should now only be proposed as part of JLDPs, SDPs or NDF (not LDPs). Only green wedges, as local designations, can be designated through LDPs.
  • A requirement for financial viability testing during the site allocation process has been retained from the draft. An ‘initial assessment’ must be provided at Candidate Site stage by the owners/developers of all housing sites (no other land uses are identified) with a subsequent "high level plan-wide viability appraisal" undertaken at Deposit stage. Key sites (defined by each local authority) to the delivery strategy will be subject to additional site specific viability appraisals.
  • The requirement to provide for flexibility allowances in calculating housing need is included, and – helpfully – left to the local authorities to decide what they should be.
  • The requirement for a nationally set percentage of sites in development plans to be ‘small sites’ has also been removed – which again should help housing delivery.

Tim Gent (Director – Head of Cardiff Planning) comments "There’s a lot to go through, but 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."

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