Wales planning news, August 2020


Wales planning news, August 2020

05 Aug 2020



Headline news


Minister requires LPAs to review their evidence base in light of the pandemic

The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James MS, has written to Local and National Park Authority Chief Executives and Leaders setting out updates on a variety of national planning policy documents, process and programmes. The letter confirms the Welsh Government’s commitment to the plan-led system which the Minister says has been reinforced rather than reduced by the current crisis.
The Minister highlights that Local Development Plans (LDPs) are evidence based documents and there will be a need for local authorities to consider the implications of the pandemic for emerging plans, particularly with regard to the economy, housing, and, transport matters. For those local planning authorities (LPAs) which have not submitted their plans to the Welsh Ministers, they are asked to consider the underpinning evidence base at this stage rather than risking the plan being found unsound at examination. They are likely to need to review and have agreed revised delivery agreements. In parallel, the Minister also highlights that community involvement schemes are likely to require adjustment to deal with social distancing measures. She provides some examples of different approaches that may help plans to progress. The Minister is exploring regulatory options for those LDPs that reach their end dates in 2021 and 2022 to ensure the documents maintain their development plan status for decision making purposes.
The letter advises that progressing the National Development Framework (NDF) to completion before the next Senedd Election [May 2021] is a priority for the First Minister. The NDF will be submitted to the Senedd for scrutiny before the end of 2020 and published in early 2021. Following consultation, the NDF will move to a 4-region model for enhanced coverage on regional planning. On 16 July, the Minister advised that the she intends to lay the draft NDF with the Senedd in September.
Strategic Development Plans (SDP) are identified in the letter as a means of addressing issues that cut across local authority boundaries from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as being necessary to implement the NDF. The Local Government and Elections Bill that is progressing through the Senedd is expected to become law in early 2021. This will provide a legal framework for regional collaboration and will require the preparation of SDPs. The Minister anticipates challenges to public and private finances that will result in lower income for local planning authorities and as such is urging authorities to think about how best to use their resources through collaboration.
Annual Monitoring reports will not need to be submitted this October, although local planning authorities are to encourage to collect the necessary data.

Planning and the post-COVID19 recovery letter to local authorities 7 July 2020



Quote of the month


It is my strongly held view that we must not sacrifice the principles of sustainable development and place making in the pursuit of economic recovery at any cost... We must think creatively and differently to promote a sustained recovery which has people and places at its heart.

Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government in a letter to local and national park authority leaders and chief executives


Launch of Building Better Places

The Welsh Government has introduced ‘Building Better Places’, a policy position statement which sets out how the planning system can assist with the COVID-19 recovery. This will sit alongside Planning Policy Wales (PPW) and is now a consideration in both plan preparation and development management.
With the pandemic having highlighted the importance of where we live and the quality of our local environment, ‘Building Better Places’ emphasises both the need to have place-making at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery process and the primacy of the plan led system in Wales. In order to act as a catalyst for recovery, the immediate recovery phase should seek to focus on the following considerations across plan making and development management:
  • Staying local: creating neighbourhoods;
  • Active travel: exercise and rediscovered transport methods;
  • Revitalising our town centres;
  • Digital places ‒ the lockdown lifeline; 
  • Changing working practices: our future need for employment land;
  • Reawakening Wales’ tourism and cultural sectors;
  • Green infrastructure, health and well-being and ecological resilience; and
  • Improving air quality and soundscapes for better health and well-being.
The statement says that new guidance will be prepared to assist LPAs shape the growth and regeneration of their towns and cities, this will build on the strategic placemaking principles that are to be set out in the National Development Framework.
We have taken a look at the paper’s proposals in more detail in our recent Insight Focus.

Welsh Government, Building Better Places, The Planning System Delivering Resilient and Brighter Futures

Guidance encourages the relaxation of certain planning conditions

On 20 July, the Minister for Housing and Local Government Julie James wrote to all Heads of Planning encouraging LPAs take a “pragmatic approach” when considering The letter sets out guidance which should give greater flexibilities over construction site operating hours, the use of holiday parks outside of usual holiday seasons, as well as to support the food and drinks industry to reopen safely in and across town centres and high streets.
On conditions relating to construction site operating hours, the guidance says that LPAs should not refuse requests to extend working hours until 9pm, Monday to Saturday without very compelling reasons for rejection. Requests are encouraged to be handled informally, though applicants should be able to demonstrate how any additional impact on neighbours and surrounding uses will be mitigated.
For caravan and holiday parks, LPAs are encouraged to put in place streamlined procedures to enable operators to amend seasonal opening conditions through the planning system and site licencing arrangements; the guidance says that where possible these should refer to holiday occupancy restrictions rather than using a seasonal occupancy as the basis for restricting use.
As bars and restaurants have begun to reopen outdoor areas from 13 July onward, the letter states that LPAs should be supportive of food and drink businesses seeking to operate outside their usual premises, providing clear guidance on the regulatory requirements that need to be undertaken. The Welsh Government does not currently intend to amend legislation to enable this; instead, authorities are encouraged to be supportive of temporary arrangements and should agree not to take enforcement action, except where significant impacts begin to arise from any change.
The letter states that the measures set out within are to be reviewed by the end of January 2021.

Welsh Government, Relaxing planning conditions to support economic recovery: guidance

Planning and related application fees to increase

The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications and Site Visits) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 were approved by the Senedd on 16 July. 
The Regulations will introduce a fee increase for planning and certain other applications amounting to approximately 20%. The upper limits and caps to fees have been increased by approximately 4%; whilst a fee of £230 has also been introduced for applications relating to Certificates of Appropriate Alternative Development.
The new fees will have effect from 24 August 2020. The wider implications of the increases were discussed in one of our previous blogs which can be found here.

New Welsh Government consultation: Fire and Rescue Authorities to become statutory consultees

The Welsh Government has commenced a consultation proposing that Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) become statutory consultees within the development management system.
The consultation proposes that the three existing FRAs become statutory consultees for their respective areas at both statutory pre-application consultation and post-application stages. Local authorities would also be able to consult with the FRAs for subsequent approvals, such as for reserved matters, non-material amendments, and the discharge conditions. Where consulted, there would be duty on the FRAs to provide a substantive response and they would also be required to complete an annual performance report to the Welsh Ministers, as is the case with other statutory consultees.
The changes would not be restricted to only developments comprising high rise buildings. They would apply to major development or developments of national significance that fall under the following categories:
  • Waste development;
  • The provision of residential units* where the number of units to be provided (including in the case of a change of use) is 10 or more; or on sites of 0.5 ha or more where the number of units is not known;
  • Building(s) where the floorspace to be created by the development is 1,000 sq m or more; or,
  • Development on sites of 1 ha or more.
*residential unit would be defined as: a dwelling-house; a flat within a building; a bedroom in a house or flat in multiple occupation; or, a bedroom in other residential accommodation such as for students or the elderly.
The consultation closes on 23 October 2020.


Written Statement sets direction for ‘active travel’

A Written Statement has been made by Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport Lee Waters setting out the Welsh Government’s support for active travel.
“The Welsh Government is prioritising considerable resources to deliver active travel schemes. We now expect to see local authorities committing to work with their communities to come forward with a pipeline of future schemes, which will encourage more people to walk and cycle for everyday local journeys. This needs to follow the best practice design advice we are consulting on.”
The statement was accompanied by £38m in grant funding from the Transforming Towns Programme will help local authorities across Wales put in place adaptions across town centres and high streets. The temporary interventions will enable the safe reopening of businesses by creating additional space for businesses and pedestrians, whilst also supporting the modal shift towards active forms of travel that has occurred during the pandemic.

Welsh Government

Consultation on mandatory quality standards for new affordable homes

The Welsh Government is consulting on mandatory quality standards for new homes.  These Beautiful Homes and Spaces (BHS) standards will replace the Welsh Government’s Development Quality Requirements 2005 (DQR).  The need for amendments was identified in the April 2019 Independent Review of Affordable Housing Supply, which recommended that Welsh Government develops new consolidated and simplified standards for new build grant funded homes and affordable homes delivered through s106 planning agreements and planning conditions.
According to the consultation it is intended that “critical elements of design are prescribed, but the new standard is drafted to give more freedom to encourage high quality design and innovation”.  Of note, the draft BHS standards say “Opportunities should be taken to embrace Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)”.
The consultation says the main change is that has been simplified, with emphasis on specific matters that sit under three headings, with space standards set out in an Appendix:
  1. Homes should be of high quality, innovative and sustainable
  2. Homes should be flexible, responsive to the changing needs of the occupants, meet the changing needs of a variety of households who will occupy the building over its life and be of sufficient size.
  3. Homes should be safe and secure.
The consultation closes on 1 November 2020

Welsh Government consultation, Mandatory quality standards for new homes



The Lichfields perspective

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted issues in the way that our built environment currently functions and the different ways we want and need to interact with it. These are pressing challenges which require responses in the short and medium term to deliver successful social, environmental and economic outcomes. Whilst ‘Building Better Places’ reinforces the plan-led system in Wales, it does open the door for development opportunities in the short to medium term for schemes that truly embrace the placemaking principles already embedded in Planning Policy Wales.

Cem Kosaner, Planning Director on Building Better Places


Disclaimer: This publication has been written in general terms and cannot be relied on to cover specific situations. We recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from acting on any of the contents of this publication. Lichfields accepts no duty of care or liability for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication. Lichfields is the trading name of Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners Limited. Registered in England, no.2778116