Wales needs its own new planning law to cater for its distinctive needs, according to a report from the National Assembly for Wales’ Sustainability Committee.
The report from the cross-party group of AMs argued that English and Welsh planning processes are so different that discrete Welsh legislation is needed to consolidate existing policy and improve systems for Wales.
The AMs recommended a new law to support “plan-led” approach based on local authority area-specific development plans.
Evidence received by the committee highlighted that planners faced difficulties managing social, economic and environmental sustainability priorities and policies and required higher skill levels to cope. The Committee urged more effective sharing and better training for planning authority officers to ensure they are sufficiently equipped to make informed decisions.
The committee chair, Kirsty Williams AM, said: “The committee was heartened to find that there is much that works well in current planning policy, but clearly there are areas where changes need to be made.”
The committee argued that the national document Planning Policy Wales should include a clearer statement of priorities and how conflicts between them should be resolved. The committee also called for an explicit presumption in favour of sustainable development.
This should be clearly defined “and form a guiding principle for national and local planning policy, in line with the Welsh Government‘s duty under the Government of Wales Act 2006”, said the AMs.
In a separate but related development Welsh members of the Royal Town Planning Institute have launched a report ‘Shaping the Future of Wales: Manifesto for Planning’, which sets out 10 recommendations to improve planning in Wales. It is designed to influence policy makers and public debate in the run-up to the National Assembly for Wales’ elections in May,
Anna Prescott, chair of RTPI Cymru, said: “We do not believe that there is any need for significant change in the planning system in Wales, but we do believe that there are a number of areas that can be improved. In particular, we believe that the Wales Spatial Plan can be improved to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place for development; that all decisions on renewable energy projects should be devolved to Wales; and that there should be sufficient resources for planning to perform effectively for the long term.”
3 February 2011