The Planning (Wales) Bill, which was first subject to public consultation some 18 months ago as highlighted in our December 2013 Note (which is available here), has now passed through the first three of a four stage scrutiny process following a vote by the Assembly earlier this week.
A number of proposed amendments to the Bill were previously approved, including retaining the requirement for design and access statements for certain applications and revising the triggers in relation to Town and Village Green applications. This resulted in a revised Bill being produced, and a further 83 amendments were considered by the Assembly at a plenary session on the 5th May 2015.
Perhaps the most significant of the proposed Stage 3 amendments was the proposal to introduce the Community Rights of Appeal. Such a provision for planning applications to be subject to a third party right of appeal would have resulted in significant additional workload for developers, Councils and the Inspectorate with the inevitable time and financial burdens and increased uncertainty in the Welsh planning system.
Whilst the vote was close, it is good news that the amendment to provide for Community Rights of Appeal was not passed, given that it could have put Wales at a competitive disadvantage compared to England where such provision does not apply. Other proposed amendments in relation to Place Plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders, the Duty for LPAs to Co-operate when preparing Local Development Plans and the definition of Developments of National Significance, all of which would have placed additional burdens on developers, Councils and the Inspectorate, were also not passed.
The Bill now passes through to Stage 4, which is a vote by the Assembly to pass the final text of the Bill, followed by Royal Assent, which is currently programmed for summer 2015. It must be noted however that there is an optional, additional stage between Stages 3 and 4 called the Report stage, which could be pursued and which may affect these timescales.
We will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill with a view to providing a further update later this year.
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