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PPW5 – It’s all about the jobs… at last!

November 7th, 2012

It is a rather rare event in this blog that I dish out praise to the Welsh Government. (WG). That is not because I have any particular axe to grind with the current administration. It is simply that WG has, to my mind, been painfully slow in responding to the economic crisis that has hit Wales as hard, if not harder, than other nations of the UK. It has, in my view, jumped blindly on the sustainability bandwagon without considering properly or fully the implications of so doing on the effects of investment and development. It has also failed to respond positively and speedily to the culture that has emerged in many parts of the Welsh planning system that process is more important that delivery. It has presided over a ballooning of the administrative burden placed on applicants and local planning authorities.

It has of course consulted on many of these issues. It has however failed to act quickly and decisively on those consultations. Moreover, it has in considering these consultations, appeared to draw too often upon the views of a small clique of WG friendly professionals at the periphery of day to day planning without full and proper regard to the views of those at the coal face the Welsh planning system.
The effect of all of this has, in my view, been to leave Wales standing while England has taken positive steps to encourage new jobs and investment. Today is different. Today, WG has at last acknowledged within the new Chapter 7 of Planning Policy Wales that jobs and investment are equally as important as social and environmental issues; and that occasionally, jobs may need to take precedence over social and environmental considerations.

It has also recognised the blindingly obvious point that a job is a job, regardless of whether it is within a warehouse, a shop, an office, a leisure centre, a factory or a theatre. The implications of this change in policy should not be underestimated.
Local planning authorities can no longer hide behind decade old employment allocations to prevent redevelopment for other job creating uses.
Imposition of the significant burdens that the sustainability standards in Wales place on new buildings may now be balanced against the job creating benefits that a less sustainable building can bring. While there are some local planning authorities in Wales that I am sure will respond positively to this change in direction, there will be others who will I am sure try and argue that it is ‘business as usual’. LDP and appeal Inspectors will, I am sure, give such dogmatism short shrift.
So, well done WG. There is hope for you yet.