Let’s hide.. It’s The Bill…July 17th, 2013
The First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones AM has announced that the Planning Reform Bill will be published before the summer of 2014.
The announcement was brief:
“It will deliver a step change in our planning reform agenda and build on the established planning system. It will do this by setting out new roles and responsibilities for Welsh Ministers, local authorities, developers and communities.”
Even this brief review of what is in store raises some eyebrows. There was a hope and expectation amongst many in the profession that Wales was going to have a completely new system that responded to Welsh issues and was not burdened by some of the cumbersome elements of the existing system. That the bill will “build upon” the established system suggests that it will be far less innovative and may simply be more cumbersome,not less. It is also a concern that the focus on new responsibilities implies even more red tape, not less.
All in all, then, not a particularly illuminating or encouraging announcement. We must however give the First Minister the benefit of the doubt for the moment. There will be a White Paper sometime in the next six months, and that will be the true test of whether the Welsh Government is serious about change or just serious about being seen to be serious.
Is this view too cynical? Judging by the other key ‘planning’ related legislation programmed for the coming year, there is perhaps some justification. The First Minister also announced yesterday that the Sustainability Bill was to be renamed. He said:
“During this consideration it became apparent that the Government needed to better communicate the purpose of the Bill – calling it the Sustainable Development Bill did not provide that clarity of purpose. As a result, the working title for this legislation will now be the Future Generations Bill. “
Only the bureaucrats in Welsh Government could see this as providing any form of clarity!