Michael Lawley, Chairman of Cooke & Arkwright comments:
“In principle, the change is to be welcomed if it will deliver more certainty and create a shorter timescale to decisions being reached. It remains to be seen however, whether this will be the case. It also makes it even more relevant that those advising on properties located in Wales will need to be fully in tune with the Welsh legal system which increasingly on matters such as planning is diverging from the English system.”
Helen Ashby-Ridgway, Associate Director with NLP, outlines the implications:
“The changes, which see a front loading of consultation, seek to make the determination of applications more timely. From an applicant’s point of view the timescales for securing a planning consent will include additional time to undertake the pre-application consultation and only time will tell whether this will result in improvements to the overall time it takes a developer to reach a position where they can start on site. Culture change and active stewardship also forms a focus of the Positive Planning agenda and will be important in driving through the changes so that the economic, social and environmental benefits of development can be realised for Wales”.
The Welsh Government’s ‘Positive Planning’ ongoing reforms seek to modernise the planning system in Wales through changes to primary legislation, secondary legislation, policy and guidance. The changes focus on the need for culture change, a change in attitude away from regulating development towards encouraging and supporting development; development management rather than development control.
The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 gained Royal Assent in July last year and marked a milestone in the Welsh Government’s programme for change. Secondary legislation for changes to the development management system came into force on 16 March. The key changes include:
- For major applications submitted on or after 1 August 2016, the legal requirement to undertake pre-application ‘public’ consultation on major development proposals for a minimum of 28 days before the application is submitted to the LPA through the erection of a site notice and through notices to adjacent landowners and occupiers, community consultees and statutory consultees. The full suite of final application documents, and where relevant the Environmental Statement, must be made available for all consultees to review. A major application is defined as one for 10 or more houses, 1000 sq m or one hectare or more site area;
- The requirement to demonstrate through the preparation of a pre-application consultation report that the consultation has taken place. It must show that the applicant has considered and where necessary addressed any responses received;
- Introduction of a fast appeals process against the decision of a local planning authority not to validate a planning application;
- Allowance for LPA to take an additional 4 weeks to determine a planning application where amendments have been submitted during the determination of the application; amendments to major applications will also attract a nominal £190 fee;
- The introduction of ‘living decision’ notices whereby the decision notice that grants planning permission is updated to reflect any changes for subsequent consents e.g. details required by condition;
- The requirement for developers to notify the LPA that it intends to commence development along with reference to the LPA documents that confirm that all pre-commencement conditions have been discharged.
Helen adds, “The requirement to notify the LPA of a start on site is an interesting one and draws attention to the LPA where a pre-commencement has not been discharged. It will therefore be important to work with the LPA to minimise the number of pre-commencement conditions for a planning permission and to ensure the necessary level of detail is provided to the LPA to enable a timely agreement of the details. We trust that the LPAs will also be making necessary improvements to work with developers for the same end.”