This week grasshopper PR finally launched itself into the world and attended the RTPI Wales Planning Conference.
One of the major points of discussion on the day was the Welsh Government’s Planning Bill that was passed by the Assembly earlier in the week – and the key changes this is likely to bring, both positive and negative, to the planning process in Wales.
One of the key elements to the Bill is the introduction of Developments of National Significant (DNS) as a new category of planning applications in Wales, that will sit between normal planning applications and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs - dealt with at a Westminster level).
The Welsh Government has now launched a consultation on the detail for the new DNS system, covering issues such as what the criteria should be for a DNS, the procedure for considering and determining an application, and the process for publicising and consulting on the proposals.
It is proposed that the DNS process will be heavily front loaded, requiring thorough consultation and engagement with local communities. The consultation document sets out a number of proposed requirements for consultation with local communities, including notices in local papers and making the project information available online.
Although the guidelines suggested are not hugely onerous or prescriptive in terms of detail (compared to, for example, those set out for NSIP schemes), developers will need to be careful not to get tripped up by the current level of ambiguity contained in the phrase: ‘requiring developers to undertake more rigorous consultation requirements, proportionate to the impact of a DNS’. This is currently open to interpretation and means that the consultation process will need to be negotiated and agreed at a local level, most probably in conjunction with the local authority.
And it will be crucial that any consultation process undertaken is robustly conducted and carefully documented, as developers will need to submit a ‘pre-application consultation report’ detailing the process and outcomes for scrutiny by PINS.
Further details on the DNS consultation can be found by clicking here.