The majority of functions under the planning Acts are devolved to the Welsh Ministers. The Welsh Ministers set policy and provide guidance to help good planning which can contribute to economic development, nature conservation and improve quality of life.
Wales has a ‘plan-led’ system. Each of the 25 local planning authorities in Wales (these are the 22 local authorities and the 3 National Park Authorities) is required to prepare a local development plan. The local development plan must be taken into account when deciding applications for planning permission and applications must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
Planning applications are generally determined by the local planning authority. However, the Welsh Ministers can ‘call-in’ and determine a planning application themselves in certain circumstances. Applicants refused planning permission by a local planning authority have a right of appeal to the Welsh Ministers.
Although the National Assembly has power to pass laws relating to town and country planning for Wales, the Assembly does not have power to pass laws which fall within development consent under the Planning Act 2008.
The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 has been passed by the National Assembly. The Act will strengthen the ‘plan-led’ approach to planning in Wales, with the development of a National Development Framework, and Strategic Development Plans for issues which are relevant across local authority boundaries. The Act will require or permit certain planning applications to be made directly to the Welsh Ministers rather than to local planning authorities. The Act will also make changes to development management and enforcement.