March 16th – A Red Letter Day for Welsh Planning

March 1st is an important date in Wales, being the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales.

This year March 16th will also be of particular importance for Planning in Wales, as a number of changes resulting from the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 are due to come into force.

My colleague Lowri recently blogged on potential changes to the Welsh Planning system as a result of the Planning (Wales) Act 2015. Many of these changes have now been finalised through subordinate legislation and will come into force on March 16th. Those using the planning system in Wales will need to be aware of these changes and it is therefore timely to raise awareness by outlining some of the more significant changes coming in to force.

  • Local Planning Authority Pre-application Services

Many Local Planning Authorities in Wales currently offer a discretionary pre-application service for developers. However, the level of fees and the information provided can vary widely across Wales. The provision of a basic pre-application service by every local planning authority and the introduction of standard fees for this service is therefore to become a statutory requirement. This should improve consistency and provide applicants with certainty and clarity on what information they will receive.

  • Pre-Application Consultation

There will be a requirement, from March, for all planning applications for major development to be accompanied by a pre-application consultation report. This report will detail how a development proposal has been publicised, the responses received, a summary of all the issues raised in response to the publicity and whether any issues raised have been addressed. The submission of the report will not, however, be a validation requirement until August 1st 2016 in order to allow prospective applicants sufficient time to undertake the necessary pre-application consultation.

  • Design and Access Statements

There is a somewhat onerous requirement for most applications to be accompanied by Design and Access statement in Wales. This requirement will change on the 16 March 2016 and will apply to fewer application types, including applications for “major” development and certain applications in a Conservation Area or World Heritage Site.

  • Notification of Commencement of Development & Display of Notice

When a developer with planning permission for major development wishes to commence their development, they must complete a ‘Notification of initiation of development’ form. This form will ensure the Local Planning Authority is aware that works are starting on site and act as a check sheet to identify and confirm that all pre-commencement conditions have been complied with. Upon receipt of the form it is intended that the Local Planning Authority review compliance with conditions and pursue enforcement action where necessary.

As part of these requirements, developers are also required to display a notice which confirms the granting permission of development at, or near the development site, and provide a plan indicating the site area of the development. The site notice will need to be displayed at all times while the development is under construction.

  • Use Classes Order: Houses in Multiple Occupation

Finally, it is also worth noting that, from February 25th, the Use Classes Order in Wales is changing to slightly amend use class C3 and introduce a new use class – C4 (houses in multiple occupation).

As I’ve mentioned, the Welsh planning system is undergoing significant changes as a result of the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 and those looking to develop within Wales need to be aware of the changes taking place on March 16th, a red letter day for Welsh Planning.