View from Westminster by Alun Cairns MP

YET again planning has made the headlines here in Barry and the Vale with the Welsh Government’s proposed reforms causing quite a stir in the press last week.

After the tortuous task of the Local Development Plan (LDP), we may have to engage with a ‘Strategic Development Plan’.

Residents across Barry and the Vale will know more than anyone how contentious planning issues can become. The absence of a settled Local Development Plan leaves residents and developers in limbo – causing much concern and confusion. The deadline for submitting objections to the Revised Draft Plan was last week and I submitted my response based on evidence provided by local residents.

Since the Welsh Government announced its demand that nearly 10,000 houses be built in Barry and the Vale, destroying vast swathes of our green areas, I have campaigned hard with local residents to get them to reduce the target.

Unfortunately, recent developments concerning the Welsh Government’s Planning Bill will see more confusion created as it intends to establish ‘Strategic Development Plans’ that will ultimately take away, rather than enhance, local involvement on planning applications. Under the plans currently being discussed by the Welsh Government, we would see appointed panels convene, that have no democratic accountability, and these panels will be responsible for making decisions that could have drastic consequences for all those living in the Vale of Glamorgan.

This is in stark contrast to what is happening in England with the UK Government’s ‘Localism Act. This law has been one of the flagship policies of the Westminster Government and puts power directly into the hands of local communities.

Under the Localism Act, local residents can come together and form ‘neighbourhood forums’, and establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in their community – thus determining which land is built on and for what purposes, be it residential, commercial or recreational.

These Neighbourhood Development Plans have been a massive success in England, and it is extremely disappointing that the Welsh Government has not adopted a similar policy. I have no doubt that such Neighbourhood Development Plans would be put to extremely good use protecting communities around Weycock Cross, Highlight Park from unsuitable development.

Until the Welsh Government changes the law, the next steps of the LDP is that the Vale Council will publish amendments to its draft, based on comments to its consultation and the alternative site register. It is then handed over to the Welsh Government for consideration.

In the meantime, we are subject to a higher risk of developments in green areas because the Vale Council has failed to provide a five year supply of housing land. In the absence of agreed development sites that provide a supply of land for five years, the developer has a better chance of winning an appeal to the Welsh Government than otherwise.

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