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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 19 October, 2015

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration

Proposals Relating to Strategic Planning Panel Regulations: Composition and Financial Matters

Purpose of the Report

1.    This report has been prepared to advise Cabinet of the Welsh Government’s consultation regarding the gender composition and financial matters relating to future Strategic Planning Panels.  Following the analysis of the consultation, the Welsh Government will consider bringing forward regulations with a view to bringing them into force in spring 2016.

Recommendations

1.    That subject to consideration by Cabinet, this report and the completed consultation response form attached at Appendix 1 are endorsed as the Council’s formal response to the Welsh Government consultation on ‘Proposals relating to Strategic Planning Panel Regulations: Composition and Financial matters’.

 

2.    That the report be referred to Planning Committee for information.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.    To obtain Cabinet's endorsement of the response submitted to the Welsh Government consultation on ‘Proposals relating to Strategic Planning Panel Regulations: Composition and Financial matters’.

 

2.    To advise Planning Committee of the public consultation.

Background

2.    The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 amends Part 6 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and introduces Strategic Development Plans which are to be produced by a Strategic Planning Panel.  The plan making Panel will have corporate body status and will be formed of both local planning authority (LPA) members and nominated members from social, economic and environmental groups. Only the LPA members will have voting rights.

 

3.    A Strategic Development Plan is a development plan for a strategic planning area, such as South East Wales, and will include issues which cut across a number of LPAs such as housing, employment, transport, infrastructure, minerals and waste.  It is considered that addressing these issues in the Strategic Development Plan will ensure that they are planned in an integrated and consistent way.

 

4.    The Strategic Planning Panel is a plan making body and will make decisions on the governance arrangements of the Panel, such as nominating members, agreeing standards, finance, appointment of technical staff etc.  The Panel will also be required to make decisions on the production of the Strategic Development Plan including whether a Strategic Development Plan is ready for independent examination. It should be noted that the Panel does not require agreement from the constituent LPAs.

 

5.    The consultation document was issued on 10 August 2015 and responses are required by 2 November 2015.  The consultation document can be viewed on the Welsh Government website via the following link:

 

http://gov.wales/consultations/planning/proposals-relating-to-strategic-planning-panels-regulations/?lang=en

Relevant Issues and Options

The composition of Strategic Planning Panels

6.    The Equalities Act 2010 requires all LPAs and public bodies to promote equality of opportunity, including exploring measures to increase gender balance. Currently, public bodies do not reflect the proportion of men and women in society.  However, it is considered that achieving diversity on public bodies increases their credibility and public confidence in public bodies as they reflect the people they serve.  The Welsh Government recognises this and is seeking to increase equality and diversity on public bodies such as the Strategic Planning Panels.

 

7.    In view of the above, the consultation paper proposes that the Strategic Planning Panel should be made up of a minimum percentage of 40% female and 40% male LPA members.  As well as creating better, more balanced decision making, this approach would also be in accordance with the wider Welsh Government agenda which is based on evidence from Norway and is reflected in the Labour Manifesto and Programme for Government.  The Council supports this approach, but is of the view that consideration should also be given to other equal opportunity matters such as race, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation.

 

8.    Achieving the minimum 40% threshold would require co-ordination and flexibility by the constituent LPAs within the strategic planning area.  Where there is a failure to comply with the requirement, Welsh Ministers would be empowered to issue a direction to LPAs to comply with it.  If LPAs/Strategic Planning Panels subsequently fail to act in accordance with the direction, the Welsh Ministers could be empowered to appoint a female or male member on their behalf. Panels could also be required to produce a report giving reasons for the non-compliance if the composition requirement is not being met at any time.  

 

9.    Exceptions to the 40% threshold would only apply where it is impossible to comply with it, for example where there are not enough female or male members to ensure Panels can be established or continue to function in this situation.  However, the consultation document states that modelling has been undertaken in the three example panel areas (Annex C refers) and the 40% requirement could be achieved at present.  Although the Council endorses the proposed legislative approach to enforce the quota requirement, it is considered that intervention from the Welsh Government should be used as a last resort, particularly in the initial stages of setting up the panels.

Financial Matters

10.    The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 makes provision for the introduction of strategic planning and the production of ‘lighter touch’ LDPs.  It is considered that this approach will enable issues to be dealt with more effectively and result in resource savings for LPAs as well as avoiding duplication of technical work and enabling pooling of resources.  Whilst this may be the case in some LPAs, the Council considers that in areas of high development pressure, such as the Vale of Glamorgan, lighter touch LDPs will remain a time consuming and costly process.

 

11.    The majority of financial matters for a panel are set out within the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 and it is only the definition of qualifying expenditure and adjustment of payments that will be set out in the regulations that will be applied to all panels.  This approach will enable flexibility and gives Welsh Ministers the ability to respond to changes in functions and procedures within local government.

 

12.    The consultation document states that the Welsh Government will provide start-up funding for the establishment of a Panel and will have the ability to provide grants, loans or other payments to the Panel within set conditions.  However, the qualifying expenditure of the Strategic Planning Panels will fund all aspects of the production of the strategic development plan and ensure that the panel can run efficiently and effectively.  The constituent local authorities will have to meet the costs of the functions set out in the consultation document such as staff costs, examination costs and procurement of technical work.  Whilst the Council supports the definition of qualifying expenditure in principle, concern is expressed regarding potential increased costs to the LPA compared to the current LDP process.  

 

13.    The qualifying expenditure will be centred on the annual work programme which must be produced by 31 December before the start of each financial year and must be consulted on with the constituent LPAs and the Welsh Ministers.  The consultation document recognises that there may be unforeseen aspects of the Panel’s activities that would require funding in the future.  Accordingly, it is proposed that the regulations should provide flexibility to allow all functions of the Panel to be funded as long as the payments can be justified. In the case of any unforeseen work, the Panel would need to revise the work programme together with the amount of qualifying expenditure and notify the constituent LPAs and the Welsh Ministers if a revision is required.  The LPAs would be required to meet these costs and the amended work programme must be published.

 

14.    The Panel is required to produce a statement of accounts for each financial year and submit them to the Auditor General for Wales, the constituent LPAs and the Welsh Ministers by no later than 30 November after the end of each financial year.  The Auditor General will then consider the statement of accounts and report on it no later than 4 months after the submission of the documents.  Although the Welsh Ministers have powers to set adjustments to the payments that are to be made by the constituent LPAs through regulations, it is not intended at this stage to use this power, but this will be kept under review.  

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

15.    The response to the consultation has been formulated by officers within the Planning Division within existing revenue budgets.  However, the proposed Strategic Development Panels will involve considerable qualifying expenditure which will have to be funded by constituent authorities which cannot be estimated at this time, but which could be considerable.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

16.    The production of Strategic Development Plans will be informed by and subject to Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment in accordance with the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes (Wales) Regulations 2004.  Dealing with cross boundary issues at this strategic level should help improve co-ordination and commitment to delivering sustainable development across highly populated areas such as the south east region.  As a public body, the Panels will also be subject to the goals in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17.    The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 amends Part 6 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and introduces Strategic Development Plans which are to be produced by a Strategic Planning Panel.

Crime and Disorder Implications

18.    None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

19.    Local Planning Authorities and other listed public authorities are required by the Public Sector Equality Duty (Wales) to have due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity between different groups.  This entails encouraging people with protected characteristics to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.  The Welsh Government has prepared a draft Equality Impact Assessment to support the consultation paper which be viewed via the following link:

 

http://gov.wales/docs/desh/consultation/150810draft-equality-impact-assessment-en.pdf

 

20.    The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 requires the welsh language to be considered as part of the Sustainability Appraisal of all documents with development plan status including Strategic Development Plans.

Corporate/Service Objectives

21.    Working in partnership with south east Wales Local Planning Authorities to produce a Strategic Development Plan is line with the Council’s corporate and service objectives in order to improve services and facilities, share expertise and deliver savings.

Policy Framework and Budget

22.    Planning Policy Wales sets the context for sustainable land use planning policy within which Local Authorities' statutory Local Development Plans are prepared and development control decisions on individual planning applications and appeals are made.  It is important that planning policy continues to evolve to accommodate changing circumstances.  Accordingly, it is understood that Planning Policy Wales chapter 2 is being revised in accordance with the amended Regulations.

 

23.    This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.    No specific consultation with Ward Members has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.    Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

Consultation Document – Proposals relating to Strategic Planning Panel Regulations: composition and financial matters.

The Planning (Wales) Act 2015

The Equalities Act 2010

The Town and Country Planning (LDP) (Wales) Regulations 2015.

Contact Officer

Lucy Butler – Principal Planner, Planning Policy.

Tel: 01446 704665

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager Legal - Committee Reports

Senior Accountant

Equalities Co-ordinator

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas – Managing Director

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