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AMs vote through new Planning Bill

Words: Roger Milne
Carl Sargeant | National Assembly for Wales

Legislation that overhauls the Welsh planning system and formally makes the Welsh language a material consideration when applications are considered was approved by 39 to 10 votes in the Senedd this week.

The Planning (Wales) Bill, which states that "decision makers may take account of the Welsh language where it is a material consideration when deciding planning applications", will gain Royal Assent later this summer after a four-week period during which the legality of the measures are double-checked.

Planning Minister Carl Sargeant insisted that the bill would create a world-class planning system “delivering timely, fair and consistent decisions that will enhance the built, natural and historic environment in Wales”.

He added: “We have responded to the calls for an effective national land use plan — the national development framework — and put strategic planning on a legal basis with the ability to set up the composition of panels, including in respect of gender, so they fully reflect the communities they represent.

“We’ve listened to communities to frontload the planning system to create a collaborative environment that puts the focus on positive early community engagement, a move supported by all stakeholders.”

Sargeant insisted that the legislation was progressive inasmuch as it would allow Welsh ministers “to make decisions in respect of developments of national significance or where a planning authority is clearly failing to deliver an effective, efficient service for the communities they represent”.

“All these elements are crucial to developing a resilient, robust and rounded planning service which we can all be proud of and which effectively delivers for customers and communities.”

The legislation makes provision for the production of so-called Strategic Development Plans to tackle larger-than-local cross-boundary issues, such as housing supply and areas for economic growth and regeneration.

These will focus on three areas: Cardiff, Swansea and the A55 corridor. The bill also emphasises the need for pre-application consultation and requires local planning authorities to provide pre-application services.

In addition, the bill reforms the development management system, improves enforcement and appeal procedures and makes changes in relation to applications to register town and village greens in line with reforms introduced in England.

Image courtesy of the National Assembly for Wales