Help shape the future of Wales: a new National Development Framework

The Welsh Government recently launched a consultation on a new National Development Framework (NDF) for Wales, which will provide a spatial plan to accompany Planning Policy Wales. It addresses national priorities through the planning system (referencing no less than 21 Government Programmes, Plans and Strategies) and focuses strongly on Future Generations goals, exploring issues such as: sustaining and developing a vibrant economy; decarbonisation; developing resilient ecosystems; and improving the health and well-being of our communities. 

In the words of First Minister, Mark Drakeford AM:

“This National Development Framework sets out where we think we should try to grow and the types of development we need over the next twenty years to help us be a sustainable and prosperous society.”

The document outlines 33 policies that cover issues ranging from sustainable urban and rural development, to renewable energy and place-specific related targets.  However, there are a number of overarching key themes summarised below.

Affordable Housing

“Good quality affordable homes are the bedrock of communities and form the basis for individuals and families to flourish in all aspects of their lives.”

One of the key overall policy takeaways is the need for the delivery of affordable new homes. In addition, the policy places an increased focus on the design and quality of the new homes and neighbourhoods to ensure they provide a greater quality of life. This perhaps comes as no surprise following Welsh Government Minister for Communities and Housing, Julie James AM, recently hitting Welsh headlines after accusing the housebuilding industry of “building the slums of the future”.

Central to the policy is an estimate of an additional 114,000 homes to be delivered across Wales up to 2038, but ideally sooner (8,300 new homes annually up to 2023), with 57% of these being proposed for South East Wales.  The NDF also highlights a core need to provide homes to those who may have difficulty in joining the property ladder, meaning social and long-term rent housing models are likely to be increasingly viewed as favourable options.

Connectivity, transport and infrastructure

“Sustainable places will support a reduction in the need to travel, particularly by private vehicles, and a modal shift to walking, cycling and public transport.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is also an emphasis on connectivity – both physical and digital. In keeping with the growing decarbonisation agenda, the NDF sets out a need for developments that are well connected to both public and active transport options. The three Metro projects planned for Cardiff, Swansea Bay and North Wales are likely to heavily feature within future proposals as developers look to demonstrate how projects can deliver excellent connectivity for future residents.

“All methods of travel will need to have low environmental impact and low emissions, with ultra-low emission vehicles and public transport replacing today’s petrol and diesel vehicles. Active travel and public transport will be a significant part of the transport mix, allied with a reduced reliance on private vehicle use”

At the core of the NDF is the idea that Wales’ reliance on the car has to end. Developments including the Metro systems, Global Centre of Rail Excellence and rail electrification highlight that the time has come in Wales for rail to take the lead. The NDF emphasises strong regional connectivity as key to driving economic growth while also delivering sustainable communities throughout Wales. Central to achieving both strong regional connectivity and a reduction in carbon emissions will be how rail and other forms of low-carbon transport help enable commuters to view ditching the car as not only a feasible option but also a desirable one.

Energy

“The Welsh Government supports large scale on-shore wind and solar energy development in the identified Priority Areas for Solar and Wind Energy. There is a presumption in favour of development for these schemes and an associated acceptance of landscape change.”

Finally, the NDF also highlights an unequivocal support for renewable energy – as long as it is sited within priority areas. These areas differ slightly for wind and solar, but mainly overlap one another and are largely located within rural areas such as Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Powys. However, a broad swathe of the South Wales valleys and the Vale of Glamorgan is also included as a priority area. The NDF highlights large scale renewable energy developments as potentially capable of delivering social and economic opportunities to local communities, including the potential for future benefit funds to help deliver local amenities as well as combat fuel poverty.

The Regions

The NDF concludes by outlining a set of spatial planning policies for each region (North Wales, Mid and South West Wales, and South East Wales), focusing on growth of the major settlements and the connectivity within each of these regions. This includes centres of national growth (such as Cardiff, Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Wrexham) as well as smaller centres of regional growth (for example Colwyn Bay, Bangor, Newtown and Merthyr Tydfil).

Moving Forward

Following the NDF being finalised and adopted, moving forward all strategic and Local Development Plans will need to support the implementation of the NDF, and this will therefore add another layer of policy to be considered by local authorities and developers.

This document will shape development in Wales for the next 20 years so it needs to be fit for purpose – ensuring the delivery of a sustainable, vibrant, and connected future Wales.  The consultation closes on the 1 November, so make sure you take this opportunity to help shape the future of Wales: https://gov.wales/draft-national-development-framework.