Draft Welsh national plan identifies three "nationally significant" housing and employment growth areas

Three "nationally significant" housing and employment growth areas, a target of 114,000 new homes across Wales up to 2038, and plans for new "priority areas" for large-scale wind and solar energy development are included in a draft National Development Framework (NDP), published by the Welsh Government today.

Welsh Government: new planning framework published for consultation
Welsh Government: new planning framework published for consultation

The NDF, published for consultation, says that it "sets a strategy for addressing key national priorities through the planning system, including sustaining and developing a vibrant economy, decarbonisation, developing resilient ecosystems and improving the health and well-being of our communities."

It adds that the NDF "should be read alongside Planning Policy Wales which provides planning policy on an all-Wales basis."

The document includes a "Spatial Strategy" which "sets a structure for the type and location of development across the plan area."

This includes "National Growth Areas" where large-scale housing and employment growth will be focused. These are Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys; Swansea Bay and Llanelli; and Wrexham and Deeside.

The document says that the Welsh Government’s "central estimate suggests a need for an additional 114,000 homes across Wales up to 2038."

"During the initial five years (2018/19 to 2022/23) it is estimated that on average 8,300 additional homes will be required annually, with more than half (57 per cent) of these homes needed in South East Wales, almost a quarter (24 per cent) in Mid and South West Wales and 19 per cent in North Wales," the NDF says. 

Elsewhere, the document also proposes 15 new priority areas for wind and solar energy. The policy says that the Welsh government "supports large scale on-shore wind and solar energy development in the identified priority areas for solar and wind energy. There is a presumption in favour of development for these schemes and an associated acceptance of landscape change."

Locations for these include an area south of Colwyn Bay, an area in Anglesey, in the south west of Wales north of Carmarthen, and a swathe of land between Port Talbot and Caerphilly.

Other areas of note in the document include:

  • a policy on "Sustainable Urban Growth" says that "growth should support towns and cities that are compact and orientated around urban centres and integrated public transport and active travel networks. Higher density and mixed use development on sites with good access to urban centres and public transport hubs, including new and improved Metro stations, will be promoted and supported."
  • a policy on "Supporting Urban Centres" says that "proposals for new public service facilities of a significant scale should be located in town and city centres. A sequential approach must be used to assess development plan allocations and to determine planning applications for developments. Only in exceptional circumstances should public service facilities of a significant scale be approved outside of town and city centres."
  • a policy on "Planning in Mobile Action Zones", which says that that "considerable weight will be given to the need to increase mobile phone coverage, along with its associated economic benefits. Accordingly, there is a presumption in favour for new mobile telecommunications infrastructure, provided that there are no significant adverse landscape impacts."

Will Ryan, head of Savills planning department in Cardiff, welcomed the document, but added that the final version "must include objectives that are ambitious enough to drive growth and sustainability, while still being able to be effectively implemented. Further assessment of the policies will establish whether the housing numbers and employment policies are sufficient to deliver the economic potential of Wales.

"The emphasis on maximising national and localised renewable energy opportunities will be broadly welcomed,:" said Ryan. :"However it will be interesting to see whether identifying specific priority areas for schemes will help or hinder public support".

Owen Francis, director at national planning and development consultancy Turley, said: "The draft NDF will have significant implications for the level and distribution of growth across Wales. This is a significant document with wide ranging implications and will be part of the development plan.

"The NDF will have a major effect on the content of future strategic development plans (SDPs) and local development plans (LDPs), particularly those that are already in the plan making process. How the various tiers of the development plan slot together will raise significant challenges. Arguably, many matters would be better coming through the SDP or LDP process, rather than being dictated by the NDF.

"Whilst some of the general principles included in the plan can be supported, it is important that the NDF is not unduly prescriptive as to the direction taken by emerging SDPs and LDPs. Taking South East Wales as an example, a careful balance must be struck to avoid constraining the future growth potential and economic ambitions of the wider City Region area without sufficiently robust evidence, consultation or rigorous assessment. This includes the requirement for the SDP to identify a far reaching green belt to the north of the M4 from the Severn Crossings to North Cardiff."

Elliot Jones, director and head of consultancy Boyer’s Cardiff office said:  "It is apparent in the NDF that regional planning is seen by Welsh Government as being central to delivering its aspirations and objectives to ensure Wales is a healthier, fairer and more prosperous place. The focus on the regional tier, which divides the country into three (North Wales, Mid and South Wales and South East Wales), is supported. It provides some much needed clarity in relation to housing targets, key infrastructure requirements and identification of areas of growth and change."

The consultation is open until Friday 1 November 2019.

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