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Welsh Government counters Planning Bill criticism

by on May 7, 2015

The Welsh Government has insisted that so-called Strategic Development Panels (SDPs) would only be introduced sparingly and only in areas where a cross-authority approach is necessitated such as the Cardiff and Swansea city regions.

The administration clarified its stance as the Government’s flagship planning legislation was debated in the Welsh Assembly.

Assembly Members remain concerned that proposals for SDPs and a national-level plan will weaken democratic local authority planning powers. There is also concern that the legislation does not do enough on Welsh language issues.

A spokesman for the administration insisted that planning minister Carl Sargeant “intends to introduce SDPs only where they add value, currently we envisage the need for two, or at most, three SDPs.

“Strategic development panels will be established to produce the SDPs with locally elected members making up two-thirds of the panel. The inclusion of social, economic and environmental partners on the panel will ensure that all relevant interests have the opportunity to contribute to the production of the SDP early on to deliver a more effective outcome.”

He indicated that the national level plan would only look at energy infrastructure.

The spokesman added: “The minister continues to work with all parties to ensure that any further amendments to the bill in relation to the Welsh language tabled at stage three reflect the concerns and comments of stakeholders and the environment and sustainable committee and are in the best interests in communities across Wales.”

In a separate but related development the Welsh Government has introduced into the Assembly the country’s first Wales-only legislation to protect ancient monuments and historic buildings.

The Historic Environment (Wales) Bill will make it more difficult for individuals to escape prosecution for criminal damage to scheduled ancient monuments by claiming ignorance of a monument’s status or location.

It will also give Welsh Ministers powers to take action if scheduled monument are threatened and allow local authorities to take action to halt the decay of historic buildings.

Meanwhile, Sargeant has welcomed the publication of an independent report into the effect houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) can have on communities.

The report reviewed existing legislation and considered best practice in both Welsh and other local authorities and made recommendations in respect of both local authority practice and potential changes to the regulatory framework.

Sargeant has promised to consider recommendations which included modifying change of use regulations.

View details of the Plenary meeting

View further details of the Planning (Wales) Bill

View further details of the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill

Roger Milne

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