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Welsh Government launches consultation on draft National Development Framework

  • United Kingdom
  • Energy and infrastructure - Clean energy

03-10-2019

On 7 August 2019, the Welsh Government (“WG”) commenced consultation on its draft National Development Framework (“NDF”), a document setting out a 20-year land use framework for Wales, which will replace the current Wales Spatial Plan.

Background

The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 (“the Act”), which enacted the requirement for the WG to prepare the NDF, introduced new two tiers to the development plan:

  • At national level, the NDF, which will set out the WG’s policies in relation to the development and use of land for the whole of Wales; and
  • At regional level, Strategic Development Plans (“SDPs”), which will cover cross-boundary policies, across more than one local planning authority.

The NDF is the highest tier of development plan and is to form a framework which will then be built on by SDPs and local development plans: taken together the three tiers form the development plan as a whole.

Crucially, the Act puts the NDF on to a statutory footing, so planning decisions should be made in accordance with its policies (together with relevant SDPs and local development plans) unless material considerations indicate otherwise. This can be contrasted with the position in England, where the National Planning Policy Framework does not actually form part of the statutory development plan, but is only a material consideration in decision-making.

The draft NDF is divided into five chapters, the first of which provides a general explanation as to how the NDF fits within wider WG Policy. We have summarised some of the key elements of chapters 2 - 5 below.

Overview: Challenges and Opportunities

Chapter 2 provides an overview of Wales’ primary challenges and opportunities which have shaped the NDF.

Chief amongst such challenges is addressing climate change and the decline in biodiversity at national level: emphasised by the recent Climate Emergency declaration made by the WG. The commitment to decarbonising Wales and to becoming a world leader in renewable energy technologies are therefore affirmed.

The draft text identifies the pace of change in technology as both a challenge and opportunity: confirming policy support for the provision of infrastructure required to support new technologies, such as electric vehicles and mobile applications which provide bespoke transport services.

The NDF also notes the influence of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which, in broad terms, requires the WG, and other public bodies, to put long-term sustainability at the forefront of their decision-making.

NDF Outcomes

The third chapter sets out 11 “NDF Outcomes”, which are described as the overarching ambitions for the 20-year Framework and which have been shaped by the key challenges and opportunities referred to above and direct future change.

WG intends that every part of the NDF, from the spatial strategies to regional policies, is concerned with achieving the NDF Outcomes, which encompass aspirations such as sustainable travel, decarbonisation, management of natural resources and reduction of pollution.

Strategic and Spatial Choices: the NDF Spatial Strategy

Chapter 4 then goes on to set out the spatial strategies, which will support the NDF Outcomes. Of particular note are the following policies:

  • Policy 7, entitled “ultra-low emission vehicles”, confirms WG support for the roll out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including the creation of a network of rapid charging points to enable long distance travel by electric vehicles throughout Wales.
  • Policies 10 – 12 address renewable energy. The draft text sets the following ambitious targets for the generation of renewable energy: 70% of electricity consumption to be generated from renewable energy by 2030; 1GW of renewable energy capacity to be locally owned by 2030; and new renewables projects to have an element of local ownership by 2020.

The NDF identifies “Priority Areas” for large scale on-shore wind and solar energy development (over 10MW) by reference to a plan. The Priority Areas will replace the Strategic Search Areas specified in Technical Advice Note (TAN) 8. Policies 10 - 12 adopt a traffic light based approach for such development, as follows:

  1. Red: large scale on-shore wind and solar energy development is not appropriate within National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (“AONBs”).
  2. Amber: where such proposals are not within the identified Priority Areas, they will not carry explicit WG support and will be determined on their individual merits.
  3. Green: where proposals fall within the identified Priority Areas, there is a presumption in favour of development and the principle of landscape change is accepted.
  • Policy 13 (Other Renewable Energy Developments) affirms that other renewable energy technologies, other than wind and solar, are supported in principle. However, proposals must demonstrate how local social, economic and environmental benefits have been maximised and that there are no unacceptable adverse effects, such as landscape and visual impacts or harm to the setting of National Parks or AONBs.

Reflecting the identification of decarbonisation and addressing the climate emergency as key national priorities, the draft NDF states that the Welsh Government will use its policy levers to assist in the deployment of renewable energy projects within Priority Areas.

The draft NDF sets the following targets for the generation of renewable energy:

  • For 70% of electricity consumption to be generated from renewable energy by 2030;
  • For 1GW of renewable energy capacity to be locally owned by 2030;
  • For new renewable energy projects to have at least an element of local ownership by 2020.

The plan circulated with the draft NDF identifying the Priority Areas needs to be clarified and there is some concern that factoring in any further constraints will further reduce the extent of the Priority Areas.

The Regions

The fifth and final chapter outlines strategic policies across the three regions: North Wales, Mid and South West Wales and South East Wales. These policies are then to inform the preparation of the SDPs, which should come forward in each of the three regions.

For North Wales, Policy 22 (North West Wales and Energy) confirms WG support for new energy development and investment in the region highlighting the strong potential this region has for generating wind, solar and tidal energy.

For Mid and South West Wales, the “outstanding” natural resources, including the coast, two national parks and AONB, are acknowledged and their future management and enhancement are to be secured. The “strong potential” for wind, tidal and solar energy generation is identified and the draft NDF calls for a framework for generation and associated infrastructure to be provided in local development plans.

For South East Wales, WG wants to see decarbonisation and responding to the threats of climate change, two of the central threads running throughout the NDF, as being key considerations in regional planning.

The consultation is open until 1 November 2019. The Consultation Document and draft NDF can be accessed here

For more information contact

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