News: Wales Planning Bill Response

CLAS Cymru has responsed to the ‘Positive Planning’ consultation document for the draft Welsh Planning Bill, suggesting ways that planning law in Wales can be improved in order to help with access to land and better development rights for valuable community growing projects.

The proposed Bill aims to modernise the planning system in Wales through changes to primary legislation, secondary legislation, policy and guidance. The consultation paper identifies the need for culture change, a change in attitude away from regulating development towards encouraging and supporting development.

The CLAS Cymru response provides an introduction to community growing spaces and to how they are much needed for the changing food economy of Wales. Its response also highlights the role food growing spaces play in contributing to sustainable development in Wales and to combatting climate change through the increased resilience of Welsh communities.

The State of the Environment Paper 2012 and the Adaptation to Climate Change Paper 2010 are referred to, as well as the Outdoor Recreation Guidance review. These all provide strong backing for an increased role for community growing in Wales.  This policy support needs to be recognised by the planning system in Wales; first and foremost, by changing the wording of legislation and widening permitted development rights for community growers.

A new Planning Bill for Wales is a timely opportunity for legislation to be updated. Small changes to wording could make a big difference to the numbers of growing spaces in Wales and therefore, to the overall resilience of Wales as a nation.  Communities should benefit from wider permitted development rights to grow local food by being allowed to provide sustainable drainable systems and small storage sheds without needing to apply for full planning permission and for their very small scale developments to be considered ‘reasonable’ in rural areas.

Further to this, housing developers and registered social landlords should be encouraged to provide residential developments that provide for the lifetime needs of residents and aid in community resilience in the face of changing times. Current national planning policy in Wales recognises the need for evolving forms of open space and makes reference to community growing, but more policy guidance is needed to incentivise developers and landowners. Policy C5 of the emerging Cardiff Local Development Plan is provided as a forward thinking policy example, as it asks developers to provide community growing spaces as part of new development proposals.

Farm diversification is actively being encouraged by Welsh Government. Farming operations of all kinds need to be allowed to make their own valuable contribution to the rural economy and to the enhanced food security of Wales. The types of development that are considered to be ‘reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture’ need to be updated accordingly so that planning legislation supports communities as well as farmers, to grow. Most areas of Welsh Government now recognise and support community grown food as an increasing vital local commodity. The time is right for Welsh planning legislation and policy to keep a pace with the needs of Wales.

The Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS Cymru) was set up in Wales last year in order to increase access to land for community growing projects in Wales, which range from tiny wildlife gardens to fruit and vegetable plots on housing estates and to large community supported agricultural operations. These community sites are created in response to a desire to grow local healthy food, a lack of access to green space, and to provide enriched and healthy communities.

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© Community Land Advisory Service 2018