Wales’ first ever statutory Strategic Development Plan moves one step closer

24 June 2019

The CCR Cabinet has endorsed a recommendation for a template report for each of the constituent authorities to use in seeking approval to proceed.

This is the latest step towards achieving what would be the first SDP for Wales, introduced under the Planning (Wales ) Act 2015. If adopted, SDPs will be a new tier of regionally coordinated planning to deliver key strategic and cross-boundary land use objectives.

The key information to come out of the cabinet meeting is:

  • It will cover the 10 South East Wales authorities, but will exclude any areas covered by the Brecon Beacons National Park;
  • Voting rights and panel membership will be weighted based upon population size and geographical area. Cardiff will have the greatest representation on the panel;
  • The plan period is likely to run from 2020-2040;
  • Assuming that the authorities agree to embarking on an SDP in autumn 2019, the aim is to publish a preferred strategy in 2022, a deposit plan in 2023, followed by examination and adoption in 2024/25.

The CCR decision swiftly follows the publication of a consultation document on the (draft) third edition of the Development Plans Manual by Welsh Government on 7th June.

Details of how and when an SDP might take shape have, to date, been sketchy, however the draft manual and cabinet report together complete several key pieces of the jigsaw:

  • What it will look like - All SDPs will have a written statement and a proposals map. The proposals map can be OS based (much like an LDP) or diagrammatic (like the old Structure Plans).
  • What it will cover – In short, an SDP should only focus on those issues, topics or places which are key to delivering wider than local issues. This can cover issues such as major centres for economic growth, housing (including new towns) or areas for protection such as Green Belts.
  • How they will relate to LDPs – Where existing LDPs have regionally significant allocated sites (or permissions) they should be reflected in the SDP. However, we are told that an SDP must not be an agglomeration of LDPs and it will be necessary to revisit all existing strategies and generate a single, unified strategy for the SDP.
  • Placemaking is key – In line with the focus of edition 10 of Planning Policy Wales (PPW 10) any SDP should ensure the relevant infrastructure to support communities and business can be delivered.
  • We will hear more about ‘Growth Poles’ – A Growth Pole will become the centre of a zone of influence, which will be the focus for economic development and aims to bring about a ‘ripple effect’ into surrounding settlements and the region as a whole.
  • New Settlements – The draft guidance document makes two references to new settlements, which it says should be free-standing and as self-contained as is feasibly possible.

The reference to new settlements in the draft guidance is interesting. PPW 10 suggests that they should only be supported in exceptional circumstances, and only come forward through joint LDPs, SDPs or the NDF. There is a suggestion that the NDF, due to be published later this year, is unlikely to identify new settlements outside of major urban areas. With joint LDPs likely to be very few and far between, the SDP is therefore set to be the focus for the promotion of any new settlements in South East Wales.

Whilst the timeframes suggested by CCR do not appear ambitious at first glance, there is a lot of ground to cover in the process. The issues that will need to be tackled are complex and, given the broad make-up of the panel, will be politically charged. There is the added complexity of how the SDP process will run alongside the production of LDPs. Whilst we have the necessary full coverage of adopted LDPs across the SDP area, many of these are no longer fit for purpose in respect of housing allocations and are overdue a review.

We will monitor with interest the progress of the various authorities in implementing this next stage of the process, along with the knock-on effects this will have on both the timetable of the SDP and how this influences the appetite for reviewing the various out-of-date LDPs.


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