'Unnecessarily complicated' planning law has been earmarked for simplification and codification in the latest move to create a distinct separate corpus of law governing Wales. In a final report on planning law in Wales, the Law Commission has proposed some 190 technical reforms to planning law as it applies in Wales. This is expected to lead to a new Planning Act, as the centrepiece of a new Planning Code for Wales.
Distinctive national planning policy started appearing in Wales from 1996, and separate secondary legislation from the late 1990s. Under the Government of Wales Act 2006, amended by the Wales Act 2017, the Welsh Assembly has legislative competence in relation to all planning matters.
Among the Law Commission's simpler recommendations is a proposal to replace (in English language texts) the ‘material’ with ‘relevant’, which it says reflects modern usage. Meanwhile, to reflect the unitary system of local government in Wales, legislation will refer simply to the 'planning authority' rather than 'local planning authority' and 'minerals planning authority'.
More controversially, the commission proposes merging the parallel consents needed for developments affecting listed buildings. It notes its consultation found 'considerable opposition, especially from within the heritage sector', to the idea of losing listed building consent.
Several changes are proposed to the regulations governing unauthorised advertising, including increasing the maximum sentence on conviction to an unlimited fine.
According to the commission, legal professional bodies 'generally supported codification in principle'. The report quotes the Bar Council as stating: 'We agree that such an approach would make the planning system in Wales far more accessible to the public as well as to those more used to dealing with the planning system, would help avoid inconsistent decisions being made, and would bring about greater fairness overall.'
The Welsh Government is expected to respond by the end of November.
Codification of the entire corpus of Welsh law is proposed under the Legislation (Wales) Bill, introduced last month.