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Rural Planning in the 2020s: Wales

In July 2022, the RTPI published a research project on rural planning in the 2020s. The research identifies the key challenges that rural communities across the UK and Ireland are facing in the current decade. This webpage highlights some of the key findings presented in the project, refers to some of the Welsh case studies and explores the driving forces for change that have created new obstacles to planning in rural Wales. For further details see the full RTPI report ‘Rural Planning in the 2020s.'

The research identified several forces for change, including Brexit, Covid-19 and climate change. While these create challenges for rural communities, the research found they equally create a unique chance for planning to advance in being pragmatic, biodiverse, sustainable, and streamlined while upholding good planning practices such as placemaking.


“There is no silver bullet to address the challenges facing rural areas. Planning needs to balance a myriad of competing claims in rural space, from housing through habitat protection, flood management, biodiversity net gain and tree planting, to the effective management of landscape designations and the promotion of economic diversity.”

There are many components of change, “ranging from climate issues through to Brexit.” The research found, “Brexit’s impact is being felt most acutely in the UK farming sector,” with obvious implications for land use, including changes to agri-global markets, agri-global produce, and the seasonal workforce, while balancing these issues against the impact of climate change, for example changes to growing seasons, flooding etc.


"Trade deals with New Zealand and Australia... would likely impact Beef and Lamb production in the UK" (Page 16)


We are anticipating an Agriculture (Wales) Bill to be introduced to the Senedd in the Autumn 2022, which will aim to provide a long-term framework for future agricultural policy and support, recognising the importance of sustainable production of food and the nature and climate emergencies. See the written statement here.

Covid-19 provided the freedom of homeworking which has now shaped a rising demand for work from home residences. It has also seen an increase in advanced retirement plans and demand of second homes and holiday letting, the latter becoming a prominent discussion in Wales. The demand increase influenced a minimum 13% increase in all rural Wales housing price with the exception of Ceredigion and Monmouthshire, seeing 6.2% and 8.6% changes respectively. (See the Rural Planning in the 2020s Housing Market Report, page 11-12). See RTPI Cymru’s position on Second Homes in Wales (November 2021). On the 4th July 2022, Welsh Government issued a new package of measures to address second homes in Wales.

The rise of demand for second home residencies and holiday lets has been synonymous with an influx of tourism. Here, a key objective for planning is to maintain and uphold community wellbeing especially with already prominent issues such as high private car use in these communities.


 Tourism brings economic prosperity but places pressure on housing (Barmouth Beach, Gwynedd, Wales)


The research highlights the work of Snowdonia National Park/Parc Cenedlaethol Eyri, in “acknowledging the importance of tourism to a local economy but seeking to manage its social and environmental impacts actively and effectively, ensuing those local communities, landscapes and biodiversity are not negatively impacted by high visitor number. Economies support local livelihoods and therefore need to be managed in ways that do not cause local harm.” (for more details see Technical Report 5 Pg 28). The RTPI Cymru Living Locally Discussion Paper also highlights the work of the Yr Wyddfa Partnership and their Local Parking and Transport Review for Snowdon, encouraging less reliance on motor vehicles, supporting decarbonisation and sustainability, all within the confinements of supporting local tourism and good placemaking within Snowdonia’s rural communities.

The Brecon Beacons National Park are attempting to address many of the issues facing its rural areas and communities, including well-being and social imbalances; the economic resilience of town centres; access to services; and the value of the Park’s natural resources through the ‘doughnut model’ approach (See Technical Report 5 Case Study 7). Although still in the early stages of implementation, the doughnut model seeks to ensure that the Park is “supporting social needs such as education, housing, transport, political voice, social cohesion and equity.”

Rural areas can play a crucial role in adapting to broader societal and environmental challenges by acting as a site for adaptation. Yet the research found “a lack of resources within and beyond local planning authorities was fundamentally limiting the scope for more innovative approaches, and that without urgent access to address this, change at scale was hard to envisage.” The Wales Audit Office's ‘The Effectiveness of Local Planning Authorities in Wales’ reported that ‘all planning services – policy, development and building control,’ have seen significant cuts; with budgets having fallen ‘50% in real terms.’


Adequate funding is vital to facilitate rural communities' role in adaptation (Machynlleth, Powys, Wales)


Aberystwyth University found, between 2010-11 and 2019-20, Revenue Support Grants (RSG) to nine rural local authorities fell by an average of 3.3% compared to an average 2.25 percent increase to other local authorities in Wales representing a funding disparity for rural authorities, Rural Vision Evidence Report Final Eng.pdf (

Despite the challenges, the research found evidence of good practice examples which could offer inspiration to other communities across the UK and Ireland, provided capacity and policy constraints are adequately addressed.  

“This research provides important insight into the current key issues in relation to rural planning, recognising the many challenges and opportunities. We hope the research is a starting point for a wider discussion on the role of the planning system in supporting a more sustainable rural Wales”. Dr Roisin Willmott FRTPI, Director, RTPI Cymru


Read the full RTPI report ‘Rural Planning in the 2020s’ and the accompanying Technical Reports.

Please direct any queries about the ‘Rural Planning in the 2020s’ research to [email protected]