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Can Wales make the shift to integrate well-being and planning?

05 December 2018 Author: Roisin Willmott

Welsh Government has delivered an early Christmas present by publishing Edition 10 of Planning Policy Wales (PPW), the country’s national land use planning policy.

Users will need to change how they work and cross-reference various sections of PPW.

PPW was first published in 2002 and followed a format that proved popular from the start. Users are accustomed to the familiarity of its pages, even after various updates and reviews over the course of 16 years. So, will the latest edition – published today – be as loved?

Planning policy: stronger alignment through new presentation

Welsh Government took the decision to review PPW to fully embrace the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015. Even though climate change and sustainable development were mainstreamed through its pages from PPW’s inception, Welsh Government did not see it as sufficient to meet the Act’s objectives in delivering for future generations and has therefore introduced a new format that strengthens their alignment with planning.

Wales PPW And Well Being Goals

A step change in how policy is presented

Responding in August to the consultation, RTPI Cymru welcomed the move to align PPW with the Well-being Act and its goals. We flagged up that the new format is a step change in how policy is presented and it will take time for users to shift to new ways of using policy, but we welcomed the move to place-making that it brings.

The change in format means that topics such as transport / movement are found in a number of places which requires effective cross referencing by the user.

Edition 10 guides users to this new format and states: “PPW should be read as a whole, as aspects of policy and their application to a particular development proposal could occur in several parts of the document.”

No longer will it be possible to simply go to a single topic chapter to assess a project or write a policy; instead, users will need to change how they work and cross-reference various sections of PPW.

Development management defined to embrace new ways of working

In acknowledging a fundamental requirement of the Act to embrace five ways of working, PPW defines development management as follows:

"the positive and proactive approach to shaping, considering, determining and delivering development proposals through the process of deciding planning applications. It is led by the planning authority, working collaboratively with those proposing developments and other stakeholders including the local community. It must be undertaken in the spirit of partnership and inclusiveness (using the five ways of working) and supports the delivery of key priorities and outcomes (contributing to improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being).”

The document also uses keys to indicate where the five ways of working are relevant in relation to policy statements.

Other policy changes

The Welsh Government has also taken the opportunity to update PPW in a number of areas, all of which also support the well-being goals in the Act:

  • A greater emphasis on collaboration between local planning authorities;
  • New settlements and urban extensions should be promoted through development plans;
  • A stronger emphasis on previously developed land;
  • Green belts should only be proposed as part of a joint Local Development Plan (LDP) LDP or a Strategic Development Plan (SDP);
  • New policy on housing for older people and custom and self-build housing;
  • Promotion of the transport hierarchy and active travel;
  • Thresholds for the provision for electric vehicle charging infrastructure;
  • Revised policies on coal and onshore oil and gas;
  • Stronger support for renewable and low carbon energy;
  • Natural environment updates to reflect the Environment (Wales) Act 2016; and
  • The ‘Agent of Change’ principle has been introduced.

The new version of Planning Policy Wales will require a shift in how it is used but place-making is multi-focused and is about how multiple uses and considerations interconnect.

Let’s embrace Edition 10 and see it as a maturing of the respected past editions, enabling planning and planners to take the lead in planning for future generations.

Roisin Willmott

Roisin Willmott

Roisin Willmott OBE FRTPI is Director of Wales and Northern Ireland at the Royal Town Planning Institute.