Planning Law and Policy in Wales

January 31, 2019

By Peter Dixon

The planning regime in Wales is increasingly distinctive and is set to become more so, as some recent developments illustrate.

Law Commission Report on Planning Law in Wales

In 2016 the Law Commission was invited by the Welsh Government to consider the codification of planning law in Wales and make proposals for technical reforms in order to modernise – and more particularly simplify – the increasingly distinctive suite of primary and secondary legislation now applicable in Wales.   The Commission has now reported, making more than 190 recommendations on the content of a new consolidating planning bill to be introduced in due course in the Welsh Assembly.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it is in respect of planning applications and planning enforcement that the Commission has made most recommendations, although in keeping with the theme of the project the measures would for the most part simplify or clarify the existing law or incorporate flexibility to allow for future changes by delegating additional matters to secondary legislation.  Whilst the Commission’s earlier proposals to abolish outline planning permission has not been pursued, the final report continues to recommend merging the planning permission, listed building consent and conservation area consent regimes.

Flood and Water Management Act 2010 Schedule 3

The sustainable urban drainage (‘Suds’) provisions in Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 have been brought into effect from 7 January 2019 in Wales.  Accompanying regulations set out the associated procedures.  New developments of more than one dwelling or involving more than 100 sq.m of new construction will be required to incorporate sustainable drainage systems, with the details being approved either in conjunction with the corresponding application for planning permission or following a freestanding application for approval.   Where approval is refused regulations provide for an appeal against the decision to be made to Welsh ministers.

Planning Policy Wales, 10th Edition

The 10th edition of Planning Policy Wales has been published.  At the heart of the new guidance is the concept of ‘placemaking’ which is intended to inform plan making and development management decisions so that the planning system can contribute effectively to achieving the statutory goals embodied in the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

Placemaking in this context means a holistic process to the planning and design of development and spaces and is reflected in four planning ‘themes’ under which policies applicable to both plan making and decisions on individual planning applications are grouped:

  • ‘Strategic and Spatial Choices’ is concerned with the siting of new development, with the priority being on the use of previously developed land, safeguarding best and most versatile agricultural land with designations such as Green Belt and Green Wedge to be deployed to guide spatial choices.
  • ‘Active and Social Places’ is concerned with ensuring the provision of housing, retailing, employment and community and leisure development in locations which minimise the need to travel and where a choice of modes of transport is available.
  • ‘Productive and Enterprising Places’ emphasises the need to plan for appropriate infrastructure (including for electronic communications and transport) in order to support economic development and tourism together with decentralised, low carbon energy production and increased recycling in the interests of sustainable development.
  • ‘Distinctive and Natural Places’ sets out policies for the natural and historic environment including policies to manage noise, air quality, lighting and flood risk.