Significant developments in hands of Welsh Ministers

Landowners and developers need to be aware of this completely new approach

3 August 2016

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Welsh Ministers are to determine applications for energy generation of up to 350 MW under proposals set out in the Wales Bill which is currently progressing through the House of Commons. These types of schemes are likely to join the other infrastructure projects determined by ministers under the new Developments of National Significance (DNS) process which came into force on 1 March 2016. These include energy generating schemes such as wind farms, solar arrays and lagoons, airports and related development, railways, motorways and reservoirs over the DNS thresholds.

Andrew Gardner, Cooke & Arkwright’s Managing Director comments, “The hope is that the centralised high level role of Welsh Government will bring focus, greater speed and efficiency to the progress of such important applications. Landowners and developers who might be affected will need to be aware of this completely new approach.”

Thresholds for each type of project are set out in regulation. An application for permission, following the new procedures, must be made to the Welsh Ministers instead of the Local Planning Authority, and they will consider the need for infrastructure on a national level. 

The DNS process begins with a formal notification to the PINS that an application will be submitted. Application then involves a minimum 42 day public and stakeholder consultation, an Environmental Statement where necessary, a pre-application consultation report, and a site notice erected prior to submission of the application.  Welsh Ministers, supported by PINS, have a target of 39 weeks to determine the application.  The DNS process seeks to give a clear timetable for applicants while also requiring earlier engagement with local communities.

Nathaniel Litchfield & Partners, with whom we have worked on a number of projects, has been monitoring the progress of the Bill. Associate Director Helen Ashby-Ridgway comments, “It will be important that operators, developers and landowners engage in the plan-making process from the outset in order to inform and influence emerging infrastructure and land use policies across Wales. We are assisting landowners and developers of such projects to understand how to prepare and submit such application by creating effective planning strategies that comply with the new requirements.”

A new National Development Framework (NDF) that will provide a national land use framework for Strategic and Local Development Plans is in the early stages of preparation. The NDF will concentrate on matters of national significance and will comprise the development plan for determining DNS applications. This is expected to be published in 2019; to this end public consultations are programmed to commence later this year.

Cooke & Arkwright have been providing rating valuation advice to The Welsh Rugby Union Limited (“WRU”) and Millennium Stadium plc for many years. They were recently successful in achieving substantial reductions in the assessments of the Millennium Stadium, covering both the 2005 and 2010 rating list. These negotiated reductions yielded savings of c.£3.5m which, crucially, allows the WRU to re-invest in rugby throughout Wales. They advise the WRU across the group portfolio including the National Centre of Excellence in the Vale of Glamorgan. The valuation issues across the WRU portfolio are complex requiring a high level of understanding of the funding and finances of professional sport in Wales. Cooke & Arkwright’s experience and understanding of these issues and application to the rating valuation have yielded these substantial negotiated reductions. The WRU and the Millennium Stadium entrust our work to organisations with the required levels in experience and expertise in dealing with these complex issues. I am glad to say we have this expertise in Wales. I would have no hesitation in recommending ratepayers making use of this Welsh based expertise.

Steve Phillips, Group Finance Director, Welsh Rugby Union Group