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The manifestos: views from Wales

Our election commentary continues with a view of the political parties’ manifestos from Rhian Brimble, RTPI Cymru’s Policy Officer, and our Policy and Practice Advisor, Eddie Millar.

The dust has settled following the release of parties’ manifestos, setting out their political programme for Wales. Here, we take a look at how their plans align with the RTPI’s Planifesto, published last September.

The planning system in Wales is devolved to the Welsh Parliament (the Senedd) which limits the changes to planning in Wales that can be proposed by the government of the United Kingdom. This means that much (but not necessarily all) of the way planning functions in Wales is not controlled by Westminster. Therefore, planning reform within these manifestos will fall within the following categories:

  • Changes to matters which are not devolved (because they fall out of scope of the Senedd’s powers),
  • The potential for further devolution to the Senedd,
  • What each party would do in Welsh Parliament down the line, or
  • The parties’ general stance on planning matters

Properly resourcing planning

Increased funding and investment in the planning system is required if it is to fulfil its potential and deliver positive outcomes for communities. To this end, increased funding of planning does feature prominently in party manifestos, even if promises are light on details.

Welsh Labour recognise that planning departments are under-resourced and in need of support. They propose to “rebuild capacity” in planning departments, although there is not much detail on how this would happen.

Plaid Cymru argues that the planning system requires reform, but they do not specify what this would look like.

Like the Conservative manifesto, the Welsh Conservatives have set their attention on simplifying and speeding up the planning system. A proposed “joint action taskforce” of planning officers to help the slowest Local Planning Authorities overlooks current capacity issues, but the Welsh Conservatives do propose for an apprentice fund for each local authority to encourage more people into the profession.

Strategic Planning and coherent growth

Strategic planning, or planning at a larger-than-local scale, is essential to meet the needs of communities and to direct growth in a coherent and sustainable way. In this vein, we are pleased that Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour mentioned the need for strategic planning in their manifestos, but note that the 2021 Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act has already required the creation of four regional bodies (Corporate Joint Committees) whose remit includes producing a Strategic Development Plan.

Plaid view strategic planning as necessary to support delivery of housing and transport, although they do not go as far as the Planifesto in calling for ‘infrastructure first’ investment, which would better support coherent growth and development.

Welsh Labour follow the same approach as Labour in their support of cross-boundary strategic planning, although some of Labour’s key points around green belt release and new towns are not included in the Welsh Labour manifesto. In contrast, Future Wales 2040: the National Plan requires the creation of two new greenbelts, one in South East Wales and one in North East Wales.

Welsh Conservatives’ proposals do not go as far and put the onus on developers to “end the creation of ghost towns, ensuring that developers must build appropriate health, education, transport and recreational facilities.” This goes some way to supporting our Planifesto asks but is lacking in detail as to how this would be achieved.

Local plans and community empowerment

Local Plans in Wales are a devolved matter and controlled by the Senedd. However, Plaid have given an indication within their manifesto of what their approach to planning at the local level entails. They call for local communities to be involved earlier in the planning process, and although lacking in detail, it would appear to align with the general RTPI Planifesto position for England on the value of community ownership.

Furthermore, they also propose “funding packages to assist local government to robustly enforce planning decisions ensuring that developers stick to agreements.”  This appears to relate to S106 agreements or affordable housing delivery and likely relates to the viability of schemes. 

This relates to the RTPI’s Planifesto ask, “Ensuring that communities benefit more from new development”, but the Plaid manifesto it is unclear in its proposals and how they might relate to S106 reforms.

Planning for Net Zero

Party manifestos cover a range of issues, from energy, wind, and solar, as well as community ownership of energy generation. The Planifesto calls for removal of constraints against onshore wind, the better integration of retrofit within planning services, as well as greater community-owned infrastructure development, with the aim of promoting long-term community ownership and stewardship.

Plaid use their manifesto to set out proposals for a ‘Just Transition Commission’ to support net zero targets in Wales, which would focus on skills and capacity. Plaid also propose a National Energy Company, Ynni Cymru, which would work to “expand community owned renewable energy generation across Wales”. They also support the scaling up of retrofit alongside the creation of centres of excellence for construction and retrofit.

The Labour Welsh Government has already declared climate and nature emergencies, does not support new fossil fuel extraction, and has banned fracking. They argue in their manifesto for an “ambitious programme” of retrofitting within existing social housing, as well as “unleashing” jobs in green energy through renewable energy generation.

Welsh Labour propose investing in hydrogen, tidal energy, on- and off-shore wind, solar, carbon capture and storage, green innovation and new net zero skills. A new Energy Independence Act will establish the framework for Labour’s energy and climate policies.

We note that many key energy proposals set out in the Conservative manifesto are repeated in the Welsh Conservatives' manifesto. The Welsh Conservatives manifesto does not reference onshore wind. Their focus is on increasing offshore wind capacity, scaling up nuclear, and investing in a “Green Industries Growth Accelerator”.

Plaid and Welsh Labour’s proposals align relatively closely with many Planifesto asks, while the Welsh Conservatives proposals are comparatively disappointing, especially in relation to onshore wind.


Across the manifestos, we are relatively pleased with the number of Planifesto asks included within the political parties plans for Wales, especially concerning Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour. There is however a lack of detail in some of the proposals, which raises questions over their implementation.

We will continue to focus our efforts on support the next Government to realise the full potential of planning in Wales and beyond.

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