Law Commission launches reforms to planning law in Wales

Posted On: 
4th December 2018

The Law Commission has published a wide-ranging report proposing over 190 technical reforms to planning law as it applies in Wales. This will hopefully lead to the appearance of a new Planning Act, as the centrepiece of a new Planning Code for Wales.

Public Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC says: “Planning law is simple in principle, but notoriously complex in practice. This Report contains a wide range of recommendations as to technical reforms to the legislation, that will hopefully lead to the creation of a well-structured Planning Code for Wales.”

The need for reform

The legislation governing the planning system in England and Wales is confused and unhelpful. It has been much amended and supplemented over the last 30 years, it is full of obsolete provisions and does not meet current best practice.

In response, the Welsh Government invited the Law Commission to review the legislation relating to planning as it applies in Wales.

The Law Commission’s recommendations

Considering the consultation responses, our report contains 193 recommendations to cut back and simplify the legislation so it is fit for purpose.

These include: 

  • making clear the principles underlying the planning system in Wales
  • simplifying the law as to when planning permission is required
  • clarifying the status of outline planning applications
  • tightening up the law on pre-commencement conditions
  • enabling planning obligations to be entered into by prospective purchasers
  • rationalising penalties for breaches of planning control
  • simplifying the authorisation of works to listed buildings
  • enabling landowners to discover when they need various special consents
  • enabling authorities to remove unauthorised advertisement hoardings
  • tightening up control over works to protected trees
  • simplifying the law on High Court challenges
  • clarifying the definition of some technical terms

We have also proposed repealing many unused pieces of legislation, including those relating to planning inquiry commissions, simplified planning zones, enterprise zones, new towns, urban development corporations, rural development boards, archaeological areas, and advertisement appeals tribunals. Most of these have not been used for thirty years or more and some have never been used at all.

Our proposals will not affect planning law as it applies in England.

The next steps

The final report was laid before the UK Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales on 03 December 2018.

In accordance with the protocol agreed between the Welsh Government and the Law Commission, the Welsh Government will provide an interim response to our report by the end of May 2019, and a detailed response by the end of November 2019.

We are hoping that our proposed reforms will form a key input into a new Planning (Wales) Bill, possibly alongside a new Historic Environment (Wales) Bill – to be laid before the Assembly during this assembly term. Published in both English and Welsh, they will form a coherently structured legal basis for planning control in Wales – and will together replace the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, the Listed Buildings Act 1990, the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016, five other Acts, the relevant parts of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, and parts of another 25 pieces of legislation.