UK Government: Planning Shakedown

On Tuesday the UK Government revealed plans to make it easier to build on disused industrial sites in England, but Wales is one step ahead with its planning bill gaining royal assent last week.

17th July 2015

Although not a wholesale reform, The Planning (Wales) Act 2015, is the first separate Planning Act for Wales since planning was devolved to Wales in 2011. There are five main objectives:

  • a modernised framework for the delivery of planning services (e.g. by enabling some planning applications to be made directly to the Welsh Ministers);
  • strengthening the plan led approach (e.g. by the introduction of a National Development Framework and Strategic Development Plans);
  • improved resilience (e.g. by enabling the Welsh Ministers to direct that local planning authorities work together and be merged);
  • frontloading and improvement of the development management system (e.g. by introducing a statutory pre-application procedure for certain planning applications);
  • enabling effective enforcement and appeals (e.g. by way of changes to enforcement procedures and increased transparency and efficiency in the appeal system).

The UK Government announced a shake-up of the planning system in England to achieve similar goals. But in England, the announcement highlighted the target of making it easier to build upon industrial land in a bid to encourage greater house building. Wales faces similar housing issues to England and the act makes provision for the preparation and revision of a National Development Framework for Wales (NDF). The NDF is a national land use plan which will set out Welsh Government’s policies in relation to the development and use of land in Wales. This replaces the Wales Spatial Plan.

The Act gives the Welsh Ministers a power to designate an area of Wales as a strategic planning area and establish a strategic planning panel for that area. These will be to deal with cross boundary issues, for example, waste disposal. A strategic planning panel must prepare a plan for its strategic planning area, known as a strategic development plan (SDP). An SDP must be in general conformity with the NDF. Three possible areas have been identified – Cardiff, Swansea and the A55 corridor. Not all areas of Wales will have an SDP.

The Act provides that a (Local Development Plan) LDP must be in general conformity with the NDF and any SDP which includes all or part of the area of the authority.  Following the publication of the NDF, local planning authorities will be under a duty to consider whether to carry out a review of their LDP. The same duty will exist where an SDP is adopted or approved and the area of a local planning authority is included in the strategic planning area.