Why now for Wales?
New legislation and devolved powers for the Welsh Government, a lack of housing land supply, an abundance of brownfield sites, exciting plans for the nation’s capital and opportunities for harnessing renewable energy through tidal lagoons, provides encouraging conditions for promoting land in Wales for development and this is reflected in the optimism already being felt across residential, commercial and energy sectors. The Welsh arm of Savills’ Planning Division, based in Cardiff, identify just some of the exciting and ambitious projects and prospects ahead.
1. Wales Planning Bill Wales’s increasing independence on planning will take a big step forward as the Planning (Wales) Bill moves towards Royal Assent. The Bill is the result of a review on how to improve the efficiency of the planning system and, in the spirit of ‘positive planning’, the Bill introduces changes to the plan-making process, determining applications, the appeal process, committee protocols as well as determining nationally significant projects. As always, the devil will very much be in the detail, but we hope that these changes will be a move in the right direction and we eagerly await how this new legislation will, in time, be implemented in practice.
2. Housing Land Supply The publication of revised national policy guidance (Technical Advice Note 1: Joint Housing Land Availability Studies) earlier this year has shaken up local authorities that do not have an up to date development plan, because in such instances, it will not be considered to have a five year land supply. This is a critical link between plan making and housing supply and in some authorities including Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, who currently do not have an up to date development plan, there is a pressing need to approve and deliver new housing development. As a result, the prospects of achieving planning permission on sustainable, greenfield land on the edge of existing settlements has, in a number of instances, greatly improved because of the presumption in favour of development where supply is not met.
3. Availability of Brownfield Land A legacy of South Wales’ industrial past is an abundance of brownfield land and a number of these sites are now being redeveloped as new, mixed use communities. The Cardiff Planning Team is involved with a number of the most important regeneration schemes, of this previously-used, industrial land, across South Wales.
- Coed Darcy: redevelopment of the former Llandarcy BP Oil Refinery as a new community, comprising 4,000 traditionally-styed Welsh homes, new schools, town centre, employment uses and infrastructure.
- Llanwern: redevelopment of the former Corus Steelworks site as a new community including 4,000 new homes, a 1.5million sq ft Business Park, new schools and community facilities.
- Former Novelis Site, Rogerstone: On behalf of Walters Land, Savills obtained outline planning permission for the redevelopment of this 40ha site for 1,200 new homes, a primary school, open space and commercial uses.
4. Cardiff Central Cardiff Council’s long-term aspiration for a major commercial scheme adjacent to Cardiff Central Station has made significant progress in the last 12 months. A Fosters masterplan to transform the Capital’s Central Square has been wholeheartedly supported by Cardiff Council. The centrepiece of this exciting scheme is a proposed new 150,000 sq ft headquarters building for BBC Wales, which will sit alongside a new world-class transport interchange and undoubtedly trigger significant new commercial and investment opportunities for the City Centre.
5. Tidal Lagoon The £1bn Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is gathering significant momentum as it has political backing and was given development consent by the Department for Energy and Climate Change on 9 June 2015. This was the 39th project to be decided under the Planning Act 2008 regime and is the first tidal lagoon proposal to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate. The proposals are for 11.5km2 man-made lagoon generating power to run 120,000 homes for 120 years, the first of its kind. It will generate up to 2,000 construction jobs and, crucially, a new assembly plant in south Wales for undersea turbines. Moreover, it will be viewed and used as a local amenity and tourist attraction. It will hopefully lead the way for other, much larger lagoons sites in Cardiff, Newport and Colwyn Bay.