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28/04/2014

Strip National Parks of planning powers, say farmers

Words: Helen Bird
Brecon Beacons

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has called for National Parks to be stripped of their planning powers.

Park authorities covering the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire coast and Snowdonia are responsible for planning decisions within their respective boundaries.
 
But they have dismissed the FUW's claims that they are more concerned with tourism than with the needs of farmers and residents.
 
The FUW also said that transferring power to local councils would save money and result in more consistency in planning decisions.
 

End of NPAs?

 
Glyn Powell, former FUW deputy president, made the proposal at the union's quarterly Grand Council meeting in Aberystwyth.
 
He said it would represent the first step towards abolishing the three National Park Authorities (NPAs) completely, adding that they "don't seem to appreciate the history and traditions and culture of Wales".
 
Powell also called for powers to be transferred to local authorities, since the current system was "irrational and ineffective".
 
The call has been met with support by Pembrokeshire residents who are dissatisfied with the planning system within their National Park.
 
Architect Rheinallt Evans described "a negative culture" around planning applications within the park, likening it to "a museum where nothing should happen".
 
Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart last year claimed the National Parks planning system was an obstacle to regeneration.
 
Three local councils have also called for the authorities to be scrapped.
 

Farmers "benefit"

 
But Tegryn Jones, chief executive of the Pembrokeshire Coast NPA, told BBC Wales there was "a lack of understanding" about the work of the National Parks and that farmers "benefitted quite a bit" from it.
 
He added that 85 per cent of applications submitted to the three NPAs are approved, which he said is consistent with statistics for other local planning authorities.
 
The Welsh government has been consulting on a draft planning bill, which could result in the number of planning authorities in Wales being cut.
 
In a speech at the start of this year, Carl Sergeant, the minister responsible for planning, said he was encouraged that the idea of a single, shared planning service had been well received by Pembrokeshire Coast NPA and the county council.

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