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Matter which the Chairman has decided is urgent by reason of the need to respond to a Consultation Document

 

Agenda Item No.

 

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 24 FEBRUARY, 2014

 

REFERENCE FROM PLANNING COMMITTEE: 13TH FEBRUARY, 2014

 

 

           GENERAL PLANNING MATTERS (DDS) –

 

(i)         Welsh Government Consultation – The Planning Bill

 

The Committee received a report and presentation updating Members on the Welsh Government (WG) consultation and to recommend an appropriate response to that consultation.

 

The Minister for Housing and Regeneration announced the publication of the Draft Planning (Wales) Bill consultation paper entitled “Positive Planning†and the consultation response form on 4th December 2013.  A copy of the documents was available on the following link:

 

http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/planning/draft-planning-wales-bill/?lang=en|

 

As could be seen from the link, the Draft Planning Bill was accompanied by a supporting paper entitled “Positive Planning: Proposals to Reform the Planning System in Walesâ€.

 

The consultation would close on 26th February and following that date, the response would be considered.  It had been indicated that the WG intended to introduce the Planning (Wales) Bill into the National Assembly for Wales during 2014 with a second Planning Bill to follow to restate and consolidate existing legislation, thereby creating a comprehensive planning statute for Wales.

 

In summary, the Bill proposed a range of measures and reforms with the aim of making the planning process more effective and more inclusive.  A suite of measures were put forward, ranging from national or “Wales-wide†measures to more local and day to day measures.  The proposals were grouped under four main themes, namely supporting culture change, active stewardship, improving collaboration and improving local delivery.

 

In terms of the national level, a National Development Framework for Wales would replace the Wales Spatial Plan and would have statutory status.  It would also seek to focus on development and investment and would set the framework for strategic plans (see below) and local development plans.  In addition, it was proposed to retain Planning Policy Wales and proposed that nationally significant developments would now be determined by Welsh Ministers.

 

At the regional level, it was proposed to introduce Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) aimed at facilitating sub-regional planning.  These plans were envisaged for three areas, namely the Cardiff area, the Swansea area and the A55 corridor.  Members noted that insofar as they related to Cardiff and Swansea, there appeared to be a synergy with the City Region concept.  SDPs were intended to consider cross-boundary issues such as housing, transport and employment.  Key questions related to responsibility for producing SDPs and who monitors their production had not yet been clarified although it appeared that there may be scope for the involvement of a panel of elected Members from the relevant area as well as the involvement of the business, social and environmental partners.  It was suggested that local authority leads on the production of the SDP for their area.

 

The Planning Bill proposed the retention of the Local Development Plan (LDP).  However, a key change would see plans expiring at the end of the Plan period putting a firm emphasis on the timely adoption of new development plans.  In addition and where LDPs were in place, the local planning authority could work with Town or Community Councils to prepare “place plansâ€.

 

In terms of Development Management, there were a number of proposals, summarised as follows:

 

·                The requirement for mandatory pre-application consultation with neighbours would be included on major applications

·                The removal of the requirement to submit design and access statements

·                The introduction of a national scheme of delegation to reduce the number of applications to be presented to Planning Committee

·                A reduction in the size of Planning Committees and the introduction of mandatory Member training

·                Councils can retain the power to determine appeals that had been submitted on grounds of non-delegation

·                Front-loading of the appeal system with early submissions of statements of common ground

·                The introduction of living decision notices to update and reflect the current position on development sites.

 

In addition, and in terms of performance, applicants would have the ability to apply directly to Ministers for certain types of development within areas administered by poorly performing authorities.  Finally, it was proposed to introduce a Planning Advisory and Improvement Service along with a competency framework for members of the profession.

 

 

In terms of timeline, the consultation would close on 26th February, with WG indicating the responses would be analysed during the Spring with the Planning (Wales) Act passing through the National Assembly for Wales during late 2014 and 2015.

 

The suggested response was attached to the report at Appendix A.  In summary, the following comments were relevant to that response:

 

·                In terms of stewardship and leadership the intention to provide for a National Development Framework and SDPs were noted.  The current system provided for Planning Policy wales and the Wales Spatial Plan at the national level with LDPs and associated Supplementary Planning Guidance at local level.  The proposal saw the retention of Planning Policy Wales, the move to National Development Frameworks, the provision of National Development Management Policies, at a national level with SDPs at (certain) regional level with LDPs at a local level as well as the provision of Place Plans.  The proposal therefore increased the tier of plan ranking rather than simplifying the process.  There were also questions relating to accountability in terms of the production of various plans as well as capacity and resources.  It was also unclear as to whether the format of Local Developments would need to be changed in form and format where SDPs existed.  There was a suggestion that where SDPs exist, LDPs would be far slimmer documents.  This in turn raised the issue of local accountability and ownership of key decisions relating to LDPs.  Finally, there were unanswered questions in relation to how the proposed National Development Framework would sit with the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan and how SDPs would relate to the work of the City Regions Board relating to the Cardiff and Swansea region.  There was also a need for consideration to be given to how these proposals related to the recommendations of the Williams Commission.

·                In terms of local delivery, there was clearly a move towards “standardising†procedures and processes across Wales, in terms of size of Planning Committee, third party rights and delegation scheme.  Whilst this was noted, and could provide clarity and greater understanding, a key question related to local distinctiveness and what may be an appropriate approach in one area of Wales may not necessarily be appropriate elsewhere.  Other initiatives, such as front-loading would come with resource implications although the Bill did not clearly address such issues in any detail.

 

Following the presentation, a discussion ensued in which the following questions and issues were put forward by Members:

 

Question or Issue

Response

After the introduction of the Planning Bill, what will be the role of the Town and Community Councils in the planning process?

Do not foresee the role of Town and Community Councils changing a great deal.  They will still feed into the consultation process on planning applications and development plans and will have speaking rights at Committee in due course.  In addition, where LDPs are in place the Local Planning Authority can work with Town and Community Councils to prepare “Place Plansâ€.  This is something that can happen currently e.g. with site development briefs.  The main difference would be with major developments, which would be determined by Welsh Government.

 

There are concerns about the delegation scheme, that the Planning Committee will not have a right to call in items.  Will there be a call-in process from the Welsh Government?

There is a suggestion of national delegation and the response makes it clear that local distinctiveness is an issue as there are some schemes that may not be appropriate for delegation.  The Welsh Government can already call-in planning applications for determination, however this would not work in reverse and the Local Planning Authority will not be able to reclaim applications that be being considered at that level.

 

If Welsh Government is going to take over, is there going to be any consultation for local residents in applications or representation in the deliberation of applications?

Would expect that the Local Planning Authority would lead on the undertaking of consultations on behalf of Welsh Government but the Local Authority would no longer receive a fee for this.  It is expected that a process akin to the current appeal system will be used and the Local Planning Authority will have to carry out the administration of this process, following determination, and pick up the planning conditions of the applications but without receiving a planning fee.

 

The public will be able to make representation but this is likely to be in the form of a formal inquiry procedure.  The public could appear at such an inquiry.

 

A Member raised a concern that the Planning Bill would result in a reduction in democracy, with Members having less influence and less opportunity to represent their communities.  There is a clear intention to speed up the planning process, but is this the best way as the Welsh Government have sometimes taken months, if not years, to resolve call-in applications.  Welsh Government is looking to centralise Government, rather than devolve it.

 

Officers referred to the efficient manner in which the Council dealt with the applications at St. Athan as an example of how the Council can evidence efficient working.

A Member raised the issue of Elected Members having to take an exam to sit on Planning Committee and was concerned that the focus would be on questions about fences and hedges, etc., rather than the major issues.

 

 

A Member requested that the Planning Bill presentation be presented to all Council Members.

 

 

 

Following consideration of the report the Committee

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the content of the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T Cabinet be requested to endorse the response as attached to the report.

 

(3)       T H A T the content of the report be referred to the Community Liaison Committee for information purposes.

 

(4)       T H A T it be recommended to Cabinet that the presentation made to the Planning Committee be presented to all Council Members.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To allow the Planning Committee to respond to the consultation.

 

(2)       To allow the views of Planning Committee to be taken into consideration by Cabinet when responding to the consultation.

 

(3)       To keep Community Liaison Committee apprised of the issues contained within this report.


 

(4)       To apprise all Council Members on the Welsh Government Consultation – The Draft Planning (Wales) Bill.â€

 

 

 

 

 

Attached as Appendix| – Report to Planning Committee: 13th February, 2014