Wales planning news, August 2021


Wales planning news, August 2021

19 Aug 2021



Headline news


Development Management- an assessment of costs and potential increases to planning fees

The Welsh Government has published an assessment of costs to local planning authorities (LPAs) for carrying out Development Management functions to help inform reforms to planning fees. The research was commissioned in October 2019 with an aim of improving knowledge of the increases needed to meet Full Cost Recovery of development management functions in Wales.
The research has utilised financial modelling to estimate fee income and overall costs for planning departments in Wales for four different scenarios. The report notes that LPAs in Wales currently do not achieve full cost recovery for the planning services delivered. Significant increases to planning fees would be required in order for LPAs in Wales to achieve full cost recovery, across all types of applications. It recommends that changes to the fee structure would help ensure that more minor fee categories such as householders and discharge of conditions applications achieve full cost recovery. This would redistribute planning fees to reflect actual costs within each fee category; the report notes that a low level of cross-subsidy may be acceptable, due to larger applications having capacity to better absorb an increase in planning fees in comparison to minor applications.
Any increase would however require legislative change which would need to be formally consulted on.

Welsh Government, The Cost of Delivering a Development Management Service in Wales



Quote of the month


Our message to the UK Government is clear – the Secretary of State for Wales’ suggestion that the UK Government could impose a Freeport in Wales without our agreement would result in a worse outcome for everyone. The UK Government need to work with us, not against us.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething Welsh Government, Press Release, Welsh Ministers call for UK Government action on Freeports in Wales


Fourth World Heritage site for Wales

Wales has been awarded a fourth UNESCO World Heritage Site with the addition of the slate landscape in north-west Wales. The region has been linked to the quarrying of slate for more than 1,800 years, as well as being home to some of the first mountain railways in the world. The new World Heritage Site covers the quarry landscapes such as Penrhyn, Dinorwig, the Nantlle Valley and Ffestiniog and the Talyllyn Railways area which is now a heritage railway. First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said:
Today’s announcement recognises the significant contribution this part of north Wales has made to the cultural and industrial heritage not only of Wales, but of the wider world. Welsh slate can be found all over the world”.
No additional statutory controls result from World Heritage designation, but  these are recognised as ‘historic assets’ within Planning Policy Wales, which requires that the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Sites is protected. This states:
“The impacts of proposed developments on a World Heritage Site and its setting and, where it exists, the World Heritage Site buffer zone and its essential setting, is a material consideration in the determination of any planning application.”
Cadw may also decide to list significant features within a World Heritage Site; while local development plans may contain policies which seek to manage appropriate development in and around these sites.

Welsh Government, A new World Heritage Site for Wales

DCMS, Welsh Slate Landscape UK's newest UNESCO World Heritage Site

Officer’s report fails to take into account material considerations related to non-mains sewerage

The High Court has overturned a council’s decision to grant permission for two homes and a non-mains sewerage system. The Claimant put forward one ground, stating that the officer's report was flawed and misled the planning committee, due to it not taking into account planning guidance found under Welsh Government Circular 008/201, and other ‘approved documents’ referenced therein. The Circular says:
“Planning authorities should aim to satisfy themselves the sewerage proposals for a development are suitable, and public health, amenity and environmental problems which might justify refusal of planning permission are unlikely to arise.”
Approved Guidance referred to in the Circular advises that waste water treatment plants and drainage fields should be sited at least 15 metres from any building.
The Officer’s report confirmed that building control inspectors considered the proposals met the requirements of Building Regulations, which require the drainage fields to be at least 10 metres from a building. However, the report did not make reference to the Welsh Government’s Circular or the Approved Documents which set out the 15 metre distance, required to mitigate any additional planning impacts of the proposed scheme.
In determining the case, Judge Jarman QC said: “in the planning context, even if there is no risk to public health, so that building control requirements are fulfilled, regard should also be had to amenity and the risk of nuisance. These are, classically, material considerations in the determination of an application for planning permission.” (para 28 of the Judgement)
“In dealing with amenity, the report deals only with visual amenity and privacy. In my judgment, by not referring to the Circular or the Approved Document H2, the Members, even as informed readers, are likely to have been left with the impression that as the building control officers were satisfied that the drainage proposals satisfied the requirements of the 2010 Regulations, that was the end of the matter in respect of such proposals. In the planning context, in my judgment, it was not.” (para 32 of the Judgement)
The report had failed to fully consider the adequacy of the drainage proposals in the planning context, and the permission was subsequently quashed as a result of it being “significantly mislead”.

Backland v Monmouthshire County Council [2021] EWHC 2185 (Admin)

New Rules for Listed Building Consent applications

Changes have been announced to the procedures for determining  applications for listed building consent. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 have been laid before the Senedd and came into force on the 16 August.
These Regulations amend Regulation 9 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Wales) Regulations 2012, removing the requirement for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to submit their own applications for Listed Building Consent (LBC) which relate to the alteration or extension of a listed building within their own area, for the Welsh Ministers to determine. Applications will now be made to the LPA but must not be determined by a committee or sub-committee of the LPA, which is in any way responsible for the management of any building to which the LBC application relates, or by an officer of the LPA if their responsibilities include any aspect of the management of any building to which the LBC application relates. Applications made by LPAs for the demolition of a listed building will still require a submission to Welsh Ministers.

Welsh Government, Changes to the determination of listed building consent applications

Freeports in Wales

Welsh Ministers have expressed concern that no formal offer has been presented by the UK Government to the Welsh Government for a potential Freeport in Wales. The concerns were raised in the House of Commons’ Welsh Affairs Committee.
Speaking ahead of the committee hearing, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “We remain open to the idea of having a freeport in Wales but creating one here would require the use of devolved powers. However, as it stands, the UK Government has not agreed to our request for joint decision making, and no appropriate funding has been offered”.
Related to this, the Welsh Government has also published a Written Statement, stating that while the Welsh Government recognises the potential benefits of freeports, it has longstanding concerns that Freeports could potentially displace economic activity and undermine employment and environmental standards. 
There is also frustration about the lack of clarity from the UK Government about the status of freeports in Wales. This has led to some organisations in Wales, including local authorities, to start to dedicate resources at risk, developing plans for freeports in Wales when there is no guarantee that any will be delivered. The statement also reiterates the fact that the Welsh Government will not accept freeports in Wales being treated less favourably than those in England in terms of the amount of funding available.

Welsh Government, Press Release, Welsh Ministers call for UK Government action on Freeports in WalesWelsh Government, Written Statement, Freeports in Wales

Tackling second home ownership

The Minister for Climate Change, Julie James who is also responsible for housing has set out how the Welsh Government is going to tackle issues relating to the impact of second-home ownership with an “ambitious three-pronged approach”. This will focus on:
  • support - addressing affordability and availability of housing
  • regulatory framework and system - covering planning law and the introduction of a statutory registration scheme for holiday accommodation
  • a fairer contribution - using national and local taxation systems to ensure second home-owners make a fair and effective contribution to the communities in which they buy
The Welsh Government intends to launch a pilot scheme this summer to trial the proposed measures. It is also intending to introduce new statutory registration requirements for all holiday accommodation, while a consultation will be launched this summer which will focus on changes to local taxation to offset the impact of second homes. The Minister said:
The continuing rise of house prices mean people, especially younger generations, can no longer afford to live in the communities they have grown up in. A high concentration of second homes or holiday lets can have a very detrimental impact on small communities, and in some areas could compromise the Welsh language being spoken at a community level”.

Welsh Government, three-pronged approach to address “second homes crisis”

Continued relaxation of planning condition for retail distribution

The Welsh Government has supported the continued relaxation of enforcement of planning conditions related to the restriction on delivery times for food supply chains. The restrictions were first relaxed in March 2020 as the outbreak of Coronavirus took hold, to relieve pressure on the food supply-chain. However, the Welsh Government has reiterated the continued pressures on the industry caused by a driver shortage in the UK. Therefore, planning authorities have been instructed to continue to show flexibility, allowing food retailers and distributors to accept delivery day and night.
The guidance will remain under regular review and could be withdrawn once the number of available food deliveries drivers becomes stable. Local planning authorities can still enforce conditions if any adverse impacts on residential amenity are deemed significant.

Welsh Government, Update on relaxation of enforcement of conditions relating to retail distribution


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