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Wales is giving planners the tools to address the climate crisis; let’s use them

In September 2020, the Welsh Government announced a long-term ambition to have 30 per cent of the population working remotely on a regular basis, citing benefits for wellbeing, high street regeneration and carbon emissions.

In June 2021, it said there would be a freeze on roadbuilding projects across the country in a bold effort to meet climate change targets. In addition, 18 of Wales’s 25 local councils declared a climate emergency, as well as the Welsh Government.

Now, more than ever, there is the political to take climate action, underpinned by the statutory duty of public bodies to act in accordance with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

After last May’s election, Julie James MS, minister for housing and local government, became the head of the new Ministry for Climate Change, with planning, housing and local government in her portfolio. This shows that the administration sees the planning system as a core part of responding to the climate crisis and putting into practice its ambitions.

It can be argued that the Welsh Government has also sought to give planners the policy tools required to effect these changes. In February, Future Wales: the National Plan was published, becoming the first national plan in Wales with development plan status.

“Now, more than ever, there is the political will in Wales to take climate action”

Future Wales reflects the government’s ambitions to promote low-carbon development through, for example, setting expectations for the creation of walkable neighbourhoods, a ‘town centre first’ approach to commercial and community development, and support for the creation of a national forest, district heat networks and renewable energy generation.

Future Wales is also a framework for regional-level strategic development plans (SDPs). It will be interesting to see how SDPs are developed in alignment with national policy and political priorities. Similarly, as local development plans are reviewed there will be more policy support to deliver Future Wales’s objectives in consideration of individual local contexts. Both strategic and local development plans will be critical to the successful delivery of low-carbon developments ‘on the ground’, particularly in non-strategic development proposals.

The above shows that the planning policy framework is going in the right direction, but Welsh planners, in private and public sectors, will have a great deal of responsibility to ensure that policy becomes practice.

Emmeline Brooks MRTPI is a young planner and a planning consultant with Arup in Cardif

Image Credit | iStock


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