'Planning System Puts Us in Danger of Being Left Behind' Partner with Bruton Knowles, Mike on Why Wales Is Lagging Behind the Rest of the UK on Reforming Its Planning System

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

'Planning System Puts Us in Danger of Being Left Behind' Partner with Bruton Knowles, Mike on Why Wales Is Lagging Behind the Rest of the UK on Reforming Its Planning System


THE Welsh planning system is facing a situation where it is being left in England's shadow.

Having been seen as proactive and assertive in its policy during the days of the Welsh Development Agency, Wales is now in danger of being left behind.

So when will we see some similar initiatives for planning in Wales? Detailed changes have now come into effect in England, including allowing offices to be converted to homes without the need for planning p1ermission, allowing larger household extensions under permitted development right and making it easier for shops and schools to open in certain buildings.

Agree with it or not, England is attempting to address issues which are facing the development sector, with a view of stimulating the planning system in order to promote growth and facilitate new building work.

The new permitted development rights are by no means the finished article. The use of the "prior approval" system will naturally expand with developers seeking to determine whether prior approval is required for flooding, highways and contamination matters. Therefore, in theory, these measures appear to be more streamlined.

However a question remains - how stringent will the local authorities be with the amount of detail submitted for prior approval, and will the flexibility of local authorities be tested to breaking point and ultimately refer back to procedural planning applications? Scotland is also two steps ahead and has launched a National Planning Framework and draft Scottish Planning Policy which sees the most significant modernisation in over 60 years.

In the meantime, however, Wales seems to be less proactive, which causes concern with developers who operate throughout the UK as a whole.

If this follows previous patterns, it could be up to two years before we see similar planning legislation in Wales. The Welsh Government is due to issue a Planning White Paper for consultation this year - but planning processes and the obligations that come with it need speeding up now, before more developments are hindered and effectively shelved.

Some house builders are already drawing a line across Wales and deciding not to develop in certain areas, given concerns over unduly, onerous planning conditions and obligations and the extent to which they are hindering viability.

So, as long as they are being put off by such factors combined with the constant delays surrounding planning processes, we foresee that those who have traditionally operated either side of the Severn Bridge preferring to concentrate their efforts in England or deciding to put a halt to developing in Wales "full stop".

This is likely to happen because the window for some of these changes will only be open for a limited period, and within certain areas of England a developer could simply submit information to the Planning Inspectorate rather than hope for a quick and favourable outcome from the local authority.

As far as Cardiff is concerned, one of the key issues to be addressed is the long overdue Local Development Plan (LDP) - otherwise the city council will seriously expose itself to challenge and the prospect of "planning by appeal". …

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