Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

14/06/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

David Melding AC
Dawn Bowden AC
Gareth Bennett AC
Joyce Watson AC
Mike Hedges AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Siân Gwenllian AC Yn dirprwyo ar ran Dai Lloyd
Substitute for Dai Lloyd
Simon Thomas AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

John Davies Cyn Gadeirydd y Grŵp Cynghori Annibynnol ar Ddiwygio'r System Gynllunio yng Nghymru
Former Chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Reform of the Planning System in Wales
Neil Harris Uwch Ddarlithydd, Ysgol Daearyddiaeth a Chynllunio, Prifysgol Caerdydd
Senior Lecturer, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Elfyn Henderson Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk
Martha Da Gama Howells Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:32.

The meeting began at 09:32.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Can I welcome Members to the meeting? Can I remind people to set their mobile phones to silent and turn off any other electronic equipment that may interfere with the broadcasting equipment? A bell will ring at mid-day for a minute's silence to mark the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire and the very sad loss of life that took place at that time. I also want to take a moment to say a few words following the very sad news of the death of Martin Bishop, national manager for Wales for Confor. I'd like to pay tribute to his work with the committee. He was a champion for the forestry sector and contributed greatly to our inquiry into forestry and as a member of the expert reference group on climate change. He'll be missed by all of us who knew him and worked with him. The last time I saw him was when he came along to help set up the cross-party group on forestry that Simon Thomas was forming, being a great advocate of forestry, and he'll be very sadly missed, and I think we must send our condolences to his friends and family.

Are there any declarations of interest? No. We've got one substitution—Siân Gwenllian is substituting for Dai Lloyd. 

2. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 3
2. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for item 3

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitem 3 y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from item 3 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Can I now propose motion 17.42 to exclude the public from item 3 of this meeting, which is a briefing? Thank you. Okay.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:34.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 09:34.

11:10

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:10.

The committee reconvened in public at 11:10.

4. Trafodaeth ar Fframwaith Datblygu Cenedlaethol Cymru
4. Discussion on the National Development Framework for Wales

Bore da. Can I welcome the witnesses to our committee meeting? Can I ask you to give your name and job title? Can I remind you—or perhaps tell you for the first time if you didn't know—that at 12 o'clock midday, we're having a minute's silence to mark the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire? So, if either you or one of us is speaking, we'd appreciate it if you stopped, and if one of us is speaking, one of us will stop to give one minute's silence. Would you like to make any opening remarks, or can we go straight to questions?

Happy to go straight to questions.

Okay, if you're happy. Can I ask the first question? What's your view of the overall direction and structure of the Welsh Government's national planning documents, and the role of—something I think is very important—the regional plans and how they fit in between the things we know about the local development plans and the national development plan that's coming out?

Do you want me to start, Neil? Okay. John Davies—I'm retired now, informally—I used to be the director of the Planning Inspectorate. It's the level of plans, I think, and particularly with the advent of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. If that is going to achieve what it sets out to do, you have to actually co-ordinate things. When I chaired the independent advisory group, we were told very strongly that the Wales spatial plan was not really sufficiently relevant to the planning system to be meaningful in terms of guiding development. So, we came up with the concept of the national development framework, which is going to set a high-level direction for planning across Wales, particularly with infrastructure and things like that. In terms of regional plans, we felt that the regional plans should remove some of the arguments that were taking place at the local level, the problem being that boundaries for housing, transport and commuting don't stop at the local authority boundaries. So, the regional plans were meant to fill in that gap. So, we saw that as being a hierarchy of plans: national, regional, then down to the local level.

On the overall approach, I think it's very positive that 'Planning Policy Wales' has been quickly aligned with the well-being of future generations Act; I think that's very positive. One of my concerns is that we have already designed into the system a three-tier development plan framework in Wales, with the NDF sitting at the top of that, and the local development plans at the bottom—if you see the hierarchies in that way. To think about the regions, certainly, the evolution of having something regional is partly down to the limited status that planners have been able to place on regional working at that level. So, planners have been engaged in regional working on planning historically. The key issue was the lack of status of that. So, SDPs, strategic development plans, were part of the solution to that. I think they were envisaged as bottom-up, with the local authority leading. There hasn't been, to date, a great deal of activity in taking that process forward with any degree of formality, and, clearly, one might look to the national development framework to think about regions in a more top-down way or to try and fill some of that vacuum at regional level. But, as I say, we can come on, maybe, to some of the detail of the nature of those regions. But, yes, it's interesting. For me, it's that we've got, potentially, a three-tier development plan framework in Wales, and how those things relate to each other is an important factor.

Yes, if I can. I was just struck by Mr Davies's comments that the spatial plan wasn't working in terms of that strategic approach, though, of course, we were told at the time that it was precisely supposed to do that. How does the national development framework actually deliver that in any way more robustly than the spatial plan did? This replaces the spatial plan, but the spatial plan, in effect, has been, it strikes me, redundant. It used to be the daily conversation in the Assembly year, and for the last five years, we haven't heard a mention of it. Now, we have the national development framework, but it strikes me, and I'm not a planning expert, but from the outside, it looks very much like the spatial plan, just slightly strengthened. Is that an inappropriate comment for me to make?

I would—. Well, I mean, as I said, we have yet to see how it works in practice, but the intention always was that it would be more oriented towards development and land use than the Wales spatial plan. I think the Wales spatial plan was trying to do, probably, too much. That's my inclination towards it.

11:15

Well, you're right, it didn't have the other things that fed into it, so it was very overarching and then nobody could make the connection between the spatial plan and what they were doing in a housing development in Aberystwyth or something like that. That's where the gap was.

Yes, that's right, and that is a difficult thing. Neil and I were having a discussion outside here, trying to work out whether the Wales spatial plan is still extant. We still have copies, and we still think probably—. But, anyway, I actually went to the—

Exactly. I went to a Royal Town Planning Institute policy panel years ago, when I was actually in the Planning Inspectorate, and we were talking about policy, and then somebody said, 'You haven't mentioned the Wales spatial plan', because we were talking about how inspectors were approaching their case. I said, 'Well, nobody mentions the Wales spatial plan. No authority mentions the Wales spatial plan, no appellant mentions it.' And it did not seem to be in use for decision-making purposes. Now, you could say, simply, that's because, when you're dealing with planning applications, it's at, very much, usually a local level. It may be local authority-wide, maybe across a couple of local authorities, but, generally, you don't get to the nationally important stuff there. But there must be some way, to me, and I think the well-being of future generations Act makes it more important, if we are going to achieve these things—we talk about integration and collaboration. How do you do that when there's nothing at the national level that directs what's going to happen within Wales? So, that's what I would hope, and the intention has always been, from our report, that it would be a document that was starting off with the intention of looking at where a development takes place at a very high level, and that's the risk. It's a very high level, we've got three tiers, and that's the risk. That's the concern that we both have as to how you actually make sure that the national stays at a very high level and then you've got to fit in between.

That does beg the question of something that the spatial plan never did, which means that a Government or set of politicians has to say exactly, at a national level, where they expect development to take place and what kind of development they expect that to be. That's not a planning matter, that's a political matter, but we've never had that, have we?

No. Neil, did you want to—?

Yes, I wanted to speak up, in part, for the Wales spatial plan, I thought it was a very good document, and I know that's a view not very widely shared. The Wales spatial plan became something other than what was originally envisaged—it was originally envisaged as something very much tied to the land-use planning system. It became something far more corporate, and perhaps lost its way a little bit. I think if we'd carried on with that work, we'd now be on our fourth version of the Wales spatial plan, which, to my mind, could have evolved into what the NDF is becoming. Just because it didn't have that detail and specificity doesn't mean that that couldn't have come in due course, because a lot of good work was done in getting us to think about Wales as a place, how it functions, and I think it was a real shame that that work, because of the reputation the Wales spatial plan had—it just needed to have a bit more bite. And the Wales infrastructure investment plan came along at the time, and I thought, 'Well, why isn't that meshed into the Wales spatial plan?' That could have been. So, I think the Wales spatial plan could have been rescued.

As it is, it is being replaced by the NDF. I think the mentality is that the NDF will be much more of a land-use planning document, so it will be sharper. It has a different status, so while the Wales spatial plan was embedded as a requirement in planning legislation, it didn't have development plan status, and that status brings with it a lot of implications. I think it has implications for how you prepare it. It certainly has implications for how planners will have to not just name-check a document, but decisions must be made in accordance with the NDF, unless material considerations, other planning issues, indicate otherwise. And we mustn't forget that the NDF is also a vehicle for identifying developments of national significance, and that's a marked difference from the Wales spatial plan. So, I think it is more than the Wales spatial plan with a different status, I think it has a different role and I think it will probably be embraced, and have ownership from the planning community a bit more, I think. So, I would expect it to bite on decisions far more than the Wales spatial plan ever did.

Roeddwn i hefyd yn hoffi'r cynllun gofodol, oherwydd ei natur fwy holistig o, ac efallai fy mhryder i ydy ein bod ni'n colli rhywfaint o'r elfen yna drwy ganolbwyntio i gyd ar yr elfen defnydd tir, ond mae angen gwneud yn siŵr bod yr elfen holistig yna ddim yn mynd ar goll yn y broses newydd. Ond jest codi pwynt arall yr oeddech chi'n ei wneud yn fanna ynglŷn â'r cynlluniau ail reng yna, y cynlluniau datblygu strategol sydd ddim wedi ymddangos cyn belled. Rŵan, a ydych chi'n siomedig bod y rheini heb ymddangos, ac a oes yna berig bod y cynllun, y fframwaith datblygu cenedlaethol, yn mynd i orfod cymryd drosodd rhai o'r elfennau y byddai'r cynlluniau rhanbarthol wedi gallu eu cyflawni mewn ffordd, efallai, agosach at y cymunedau?

I too liked the spatial plan, because of its more holistic nature, and my concern is that perhaps we are losing some of that element by concentrating entirely on the land-use element, but we need to ensure that the holistic element is not lost in the new process. But you just raised another point there about the second tier of plans, the strategic development plans that have not appeared thus far. Now, are you disappointed that they have not emerged yet, and is there a danger that the NDF will have to take over some of the elements that the regional plans would have been able to achieve in a way that was, perhaps, closer to the communities?

11:20

Diolch yn fawr iawn am eich cwestiwn.

Thank you very much for your question.

My view on it is that there is an attempt in the NDF, or perhaps an intent to try and set a regional context, but it wouldn't be one that fulfilled the role of a strategic development plan. So, I don't think it's displacing it. I think what the role of the NDF could be is to lead, give a nudge to the strategic development plan and regional working, but, certainly, I don't think anyone would want to see the NDF  doing that. I think that would be going too far. It is a national-level document—

It doesn't—. I don't think it talks of setting a regional housing target. Based on what I've seen so far, it talks about having regional-level, policy-based—using household projections data, and coming out with a regional—. And looking at a range. So, yes, I think there would be a danger if we saw them as targets, and I don't think putting that in the national development framework—. It will lead to a sort of increased contestation, because what quite a lot of the contestation around LDPs—local development plans—is is housing figures. So, I think the fact that it will do that will lead to a great deal of scrutiny, but nevertheless it doesn't obviate the need to do more refined work at local development plan stage, which will probably be dealing with a different set of household projections data by the time you get to an LDP.

So, it will be a continually moving feast, and I don't think it's the role of the NDF, and I don't think it envisages setting regional housing targets, but it seems like it's indicating that it will do some work around household projections. If household projections data is there, you can scale it up at any level you like, almost, but it will be a policy-based projection. So, it will have a policy dimension in it, which takes it away from just raw statistical projections, but I don't think it's intending to go as far as anything that could be—. It might be interpreted as a housing target, but I don't think the intent is that it will set housing targets.

Yes. It actually says:

'a regional range of housing numbers'.

So, yes. But frequently they are interpreted as targets, which is wrong.

You used the word 'disappointed'. I would say that, yes, I'm disappointed, and I think authorities are missing an opportunity. But then they have to get together and start to agree amongst themselves. South-east Wales particularly is suited to it. Planners in south-east Wales informally used to work together. It was SEWSPG, I think—south-east Wales strategic planning group—and used to meet informally on a regular basis, and they did some very good work, but then when they went back to their authorities, frequently that work was lost.

I've seen the potential in Scotland for a regional plan, and that's where we really thought, 'Okay, it can be done', but, again, it's a very difficult thing. The NDF needs to stay at that level, the strategic needs to stay at the regional—. The regional development plans need to stay at the level, but there is an opportunity then to plan beyond just simple administrative boundaries, and that would be the aim. We don't live in an ideal world, but if planning is going to achieve something, that's the way I always thought it should be working. Not everybody agrees with me, though.

The NDF has a statement of participation, which itself is probably quite an innovation for Government to hardwire that into policy development at a very early stage. I don't know if you've had any sight of, or indeed been involved in any of the various participation mechanisms that have been used, principally the workshops, I guess, but how do you think that side of the work has gone so far?

You've been involved, Neil, I think.

Yes. I think, on participation, I was looking at some of the other examples elsewhere in Europe, looking in particular at Ireland's version of a national strategy. They prepared theirs in a year, but they had only two consultation activities. What we have here in Wales is quite a highly consultative approach being taken to the NDF, and there's even been consultation on the consultation, right at the very beginning. I think what the Welsh Government is pursuing is a highly consultative approach and it's to be commended for that. I think it's trying to reach a wider population, for example with the use of a public-friendly video. There have been exhibitions very recently. I think there might even be one in Carmarthen library today, and I went to one in Cardiff central library. But the challenge of this scale of document is about who gets involved at that scale. The consultation document is out on the NDF at the moment, on a preferred option. So, things are going to be said that will impact on later stages through this. There has been a call for evidence that received national-level stakeholders and interests responding to it. The challenge will be—and this is an old adage in planning—that until someone draws a line on a map, people don't realise that it affects them, and they get involved. That will come in due course, of course, but I think so far, it's been quite a positive approach and what the Welsh Government is doing is it has a very transparent way of indicating what consultation it is doing. It has a map and almost like a diarised set of activities: who it has met, when, what is coming up et cetera, which, I think, again, is to be commended. So, anyone can see who is being involved in these discussions on the NDF so far.

11:25

I haven't been involved in any of these workshops or anything like that. I echo Neil's point: the NDF is probably the most difficult of all of them to consult on, because at that level, most people are not interested, frankly—let's be honest. And consultation in the planning world is always a bone of contention. At the Royal Town Planning Institute conference last week, again this was one of the things we were debating there: how do you do it, how do you get people? And until somebody says, 'I want to build in the field next to you'—. So, they can only do what they can do and I think the workshops—. They are being as flexible as they can, as far as I understand it. I'm reading all of this and I've outlined all the different—. 'Twelve weeks: undertake engagement'; 'undertake engagement'—right through it. So, I commend them for doing that, and for getting out and talking to people. And that's the other thing. I noticed that, in the revised consultation statement, they talk about not setting formal sessions, but making themselves available, if people want to talk to them—to the planning officers in the Assembly planning division. So, yes, they're trying to be as flexible and innovative as possible, I think, so they can be commended for doing what is a difficult task.

I suspect that most of the committee would agree with much of what you just said. Do you think that perhaps the participation so far has been stronger at the stakeholder level and then, when you get closer to the public, it's more distant? Is there a chance, further in the process, perhaps when the regional planning becomes more apparent—when there is an indication of what sort of shape it's going to have—that we could see some level of public engagement? How necessary do you think, in this whole policy development—which, of course, would give us the planning structure for a generation up to 2040—is it that we should be seeing public engagement? I'll give one example: if we're all moving towards renewable energy being the vast majority of energy by 2040, certainly, that has implications for every neighbourhood, right down to street level, practically. Do you see any potential there, further in the process, for getting real public engagement in this?

I would say there has to be. At each tier, if you like, of that three-tier approach, there is in-built consultation as part of that—it has to take place. The closer you get to communities, in a way, perhaps the easier it gets to do that. But one of the problems, and one of the things, listening to people talking last week, is that because it's been difficult, it's seen as difficult and people, I think, are a bit concerned about it, and the younger ones coming into the profession are not, if you like, bitten by past bitter experiences. And I say that as someone who has done it in Cardiff many years ago. It is difficult. You have to be prepared to explain what you want to do, and that's part of the problem. Authorities and planners are not very good at explaining in words that ordinary people can understand. I think Carole-Anne Davies from the design commission said that she had never heard so much jargon, and the people on the street don't understand it. I think that is one of the issues. But that's an issue for the profession and it may be an issue for the Welsh Government. It may be—and, again, I don't have direct knowledge, but I would like to think that the planning divisions and planning officers have been able to try and get that across. But that is one of the most difficult things to do. But yes, at each stage there will be the opportunity for that to take place. The trick is actually doing it in a way that communicates and is meaningful.

11:30

I was just remembering the last panel from the Welsh Government. They had a leaflet that was, they said, jargon-free, which they used in their consultation events, but we haven't seen the leaflet. It might be interesting if we saw the leaflet at some point.

Diolch yn fawr. Os caf i ofyn i chi—mae'n amlwg bod yna nifer o amcanion i'r fframwaith datblygu cenedlaethol, rhai rydw i yn bersonol yn eu cefnogi yn fwy na rhai eraill, ond mae yna ffrwd eithaf clir o gynaliadwyedd yn rhedeg drwyddi ynglŷn ag economi carbon isel, ynglŷn â defnydd tir amgen, ac ati. Y ffordd o drio gwneud hyn, yn ôl beth rydw i'n ei deall, o grynhoi hyn at ei gilydd, yw cael rhyw fath o arfarniad o gynaliadwyedd integredig tu fewn i'r fframwaith. A ydych chi'n credu y gall dull fel yna weithio i gymathu'r holl amcanion gwahanol yna gyda'i gilydd? A ydych chi'n credu mai dyma yw'r dewis iawn, yn hytrach na gwneud asesiadau gwahanol, fel, efallai, sy'n tueddu i gael ei wneud ar hyn o bryd—asesiad cwbl wahanol o wahanol agweddau—ac wedyn rhyw sefyll nôl a chymryd gorolwg a phwyso a mesur yn yr ystyr yna? Mae hynny, efallai, yn ffordd mwy dyfarnol o wneud pethau, ond mae yna ddull newydd yn cael ei awgrymu fan hyn. Rydw i jest eisiau cael syniad o'r ffordd rydych chi'n gweld y byddai hwn yn gweithio yn ymarferol i bobl sy'n gorfod gwneud penderfyniadau ynglŷn â'r amcanion hyn.

Thank you very much. If I could just ask you—it's obvious that there are a number of objectives to the NDF, some of which I support more than others, but there is quite a strong stream of sustainability running through it in terms of having a low-carbon economy, alternative land use, and so on. The way to try to do that, as I understand it, in terms of bringing this together, is to have some kind of integrated system of sustainability within the framework. Now, do you think that that kind of approach could work in bringing all of these objectives together? Do you think that this would be the right action, rather than making different assessments, as tends to be done at present in terms of the different elements, and then standing back and taking an overview and weighing up the options in that sense? That is, perhaps, a more appraising way of doing things, but there are new approaches to this. So, I'd like to have an idea of how you see this working in practice for those who make decisions about these objectives.

I think the integration of the various appraisal methodologies is a positive thing, and it's something that Welsh Government encourages people preparing local development plans to do, not to have separate streams where you can bring—. So, bringing sustainability appraisal and strategic environmental assessment together is a fairly common practice in local development plans, so the precursor or predecessor for that. I had a look at the—. So, that's very positive. I think as long as you are indicating and explaining that it is the sustainability appraisal required, and it is the strategic environment assessment, and that there are other complimentary statutory and non-statutory appraisals, it makes sense to bring them together. I had a look at the—

Just specifically on that, I'm sure you've got more to say, but I just wanted to understand that point. At the moment, as you say, there are statutory and non-statutory approaches, so people look at the range of them. I had a very limited time as a councillor myself, but in the limited time that I did have, which was more than several years ago now, you were very much urged to look at the statutory more than the non-statutory, even though, often, the non-statutory was what the local populace was more interested in, because it was the more creative approach, perhaps, in place making, but hadn't become statutory yet. So while you give the rest of your answer—sorry about this—just for us to understand how that will be weighed up in that process, so that people don't feel that they've been somehow misused in a way. I'm not sure if that's quite the right word, but you know.

In relation to the statutory, I think it's just because this is going to be a development plan status document. A lot of emphasis is going to be placed on it, so you want to make sure that you have met your statutory obligations in relation to various appraisals. So, yes they will be—. I was getting at more of a point of ensuring that Welsh Government has done what it needs to do, and that the plan or framework doesn't fall down to legal challenge at some point in the future.

As to the integration of the methodology, I think there's a diagram that gives an indication of the range of methodologies and how they sit, including some of the non-statutory ones. I think if you were doing integrated sustainability appraisal properly, you'd want to meet your statutory obligations, but simply because something's non-statutory doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't have weight in that process of reviewing how the objectives of the NDF meet various other appraisals that impact on a variety of things.

So, I don't have any concerns, once you're into that process, that you would necessarily have people cherry-picking statutory versus the non-statutory. I think the statutory approach is just making sure you have met your obligations and your plan doesn’t fall at some point in the future for not having done so.

Positively, the integrated sustainability appraisal that has been done so far is at a very high level, and necessarily so at the moment, given that it's just a statement of objectives. But there is in that a narrative of having improved the NDF by virtue of having this integrated approach to sustainability appraisal. So, there have been things that maybe haven't been profiled in the early stages of preparing the NDF that the appraisal has raised to then go on to the agenda, so a greater attention to pollution et cetera and various other things. So, yes, I think what I've seen so far is that the integration has been positive, and I don't think it prioritises or necessarily relegates anything as a consideration. 

11:35

I agree entirely with Neil. I think it's the way that we are moving anyway, and have been for some time, bearing in mind that there are similarities between these processes anyway, and then, in terms of the legislation, it's moving towards that integration. So, if we're told about integration, collaboration and everything, why do these separately, when sometimes they are—not reflections of each other, but there's overlaps within them? So, by doing all this, I think that helps. That helps to get a better overview of the process. It also helps in the sense that, if you were talking about statutory or non-statutory, by doing them together, it sort of brings everything to the same level. So, not bringing the statutory down, but bringing the non-statutory up, if you like, and gives everything equal importance to people who might be concerned about some of the things that are non-statutory, which, as you said, would be concerning to the ordinary person. So, I think that is the right way to go. I think it's giving a better result. My concern would be that some of the reports are not the easiest to read, shall we say, and a little bit impenetrable for someone who's not familiar with it, and I think—

A strategic environmental assessment does require—. It has, as part of it, accessibility of that information to the public. So, it usually does require a non-technical summary of some form as well. So, some of those formalities are formal statutory processes. Nevertheless, it's not just about doing the appraisal; it's about ensuring that that appraisal is digestible by the public and that that information is accessible in a kind of way that they can interpret. 

A gaf i jest ofyn—? Lle amlwg lle rydych chi'n trio gwneud hwn yw, wrth gwrs, o dan Ddeddf llesiant cenedlaethau’r dyfodol, sydd yn Ddeddf gwlad, ond sydd â phrin iawn o bethau statudol oddi tano fe. Felly, mae'n Ddeddf gwlad sydd yn gosod amcanion, ond nid oes prosesau statudol—ar wahân i rai sy'n ymwneud â'r comisiynydd, sefydlu byrddau gwasanaethau, wrth gwrs—ond nid oes dim byd yn llifo allan o hynny. Nid wyf yn awgrymu y dylai fod llwyth o statudau yn llifo, ond ai o dan yr ymbarél yma a'r ffordd yna o weithio y byddech chi'n rhagweld yn y pen draw—y bydd hwn yn dangos bod hynny'n ffordd o weithio, fel petai, a bod hynny'n brawf o Ddeddf llesiant cenedlaethau'r dyfodol?

Could I just ask—? One obvious place you're doing this is under the well-being of future generations Act, which is an Act, but doesn't have many statutory elements underneath it. It sets out objectives, but there are no statutory processes—unless they're to do with the establishment of boards and the commissioner, and the public services boards—but there's nothing that stems from that. I'm not suggesting that there should be many statutes stemming from it, but is it under this kind of umbrella how you see it ultimately working—showing that that's how it works, and that that's a test of the well-being of future generations Act?

The well-being of future generations Act has already been a framework for completely revising in draft—and already having gone out to consultation—'Planning Policy Wales'. The NDF is a document that will sit alongside 'Planning Policy Wales', so I think the fact that that relationship is there—. We had the commissioner at our RTPI Cymru Wales planning conference, so planning is very much on her radar as well for looking at—. So, I think, yes, what I see is that the planning community is embracing the various dimensions of the well-being of future generations Act. We have appraisal methodologies already in place, and while some of them sound of a very environmental nature, they actually reach into aspects of culture, language and various other things. So, a strategic environmental assessments alongside sustainability appraisals are quite all-embracing of a range of different factors, which probably covers off quite well the various dimensions of the well-being of future generations Act.

What the Act does is set these five ways of working that we talk about. You'll hear the commissioner and the Welsh Government talking about ways of doing things and doing things differently. And, if you like, to put it as an umbrella is probably a good way to put it. What I see the Act as trying to do is to make people think wider, not think within silos, think outside the box, think of all these things, and in that sense the methodology being applied to the NDF, and the NDF itself, is trying to work towards that goal. It's little steps, I think, but it's starting to take shape. I see that. 

Good morning. The one thing I want to probe down—. It's on the same theme, but it's to do with the habitats regulation assessment and the habitats directive that I've asked previously about this morning, as standing outside of and running alongside the national development plan. I suppose my concern is this: if you read all of the state of nature reports, and there was one out this week, although it was done in England, which said that, within 10 years, there would be a complete loss and rapid decline of various animals within that. So, I suppose what I want to ask is this: if we applied a habitats regulations assessment based on what is existing within that habitat, rather than what could be existing and has been lost, how are we going to prevent the decline going even faster than it already is? Because I think that's critical—if somebody goes in and does a habitats appraisal and says, 'This is the state of that now', rather than what it could be, we can then inflict further damage, because that's the point at which we've done that examination.

11:40

Right, let's think. One of the difficulties, of course, in making an assessment as to what could happen is you don't know. That's one of the issues. 

What you can do, I think, is when you're looking at the potential of a site, you can look at its existing condition, in terms of is it at optimal condition and can things be done, and can things be done as part of the development process, to improve conditions in a particular area. It's very difficult. In the planning field, you get involved in looking at impact and what is the impact on. So, it's the impact on what is there at the moment.

But, you can look at improving things, and that's something that Natural Resources Wales is doing as part of the planning it's doing, and other parts of the Welsh Government are doing it as well. You can look at what you can do to improve conditions and then, hopefully, conditions for species maybe to come back to thrive and return. You can't, if you like, project that as a definitive, because, as I said, you don't know what might happen. But you can look at what should be the best conditions for a particular species to thrive and help that if you can.

Other than that, I would go on to say that one of the things that concerns me about the national development framework is at what level you stop that. Because I would see the sort of things that you're talking about as more to do with regional and local development planning. You can set the framework for that, but that's in 'Planning Policy Wales' in any event—as far as I'm concerned, it is. And it's also in the plans that are being done separately for natural resources by Natural Resources Wales.

I don't want to go into the technical detail on habitats regulations assessments but, I think, just to look at what the opportunities are that the NDF brings, which is to look at habitats in a national context and a sub-national context. The 2015 Act also requires the NDFs specifically to link with or have regard to the marine plan. So, I think, again, this is something that wasn't necessarily fully embraced in the Wales spatial plan, which is a positive development—it's looking not just at land, not just looking at the marine or coastal environment, but looking at that in an integrated way. So, I don't yet know how the detail will work out, but I think there are really nice opportunities there to think about habitats in a broader spatial context, but also that link with the marine environment.

I droi at yr asesiad iaith Gymraeg a oedd yn cael ei wneud fel un o'r asesiadau ar gyfer y gwaith yma, a ydych chi'n teimlo bod yna ddigon o ddealltwriaeth ynghylch sut i asesu impact cynlluniau ar y Gymraeg? Mae'n gallu bod yn effaith andwyol ar gymunedau Cymraeg, ac mae'n gallu bod yn effaith bositif ar gymunedau Cymraeg. Ond, a oes yna ddigon o ddealltwriaeth am y maes yma o'i gymharu efo'r maes amgylcheddol, lle mae yna lot fawr o ddealltwriaeth am fethodoleg ac yn y blaen? Rhywbeth cyffredinol ydy hwn mewn ffordd, ond mae o'n cael effaith ar y cynllun datblygu hefyd.

Turning to the Welsh language assessment that was undertaken as one of the assessments in relation to this work, do you feel that there is enough understanding in relation to how to assess the impact of developments on the Welsh language? It can have a very adverse effect on Welsh-speaking communities, and it can have a positive impact on those communities. So, is there enough understanding of this area compared with the environmental field, where there is a great deal of understanding in terms of methodology and so forth? This is a general point, in a way, but it does have an impact on the development plan also.

Yes, I'd agree, it does. I think the guidance from the Welsh Government at the moment is at a planning level—at a plan-making level. Whether there's enough understanding of that—I haven't seen any recent studies to know, to be honest, so I wouldn't be able to answer that. In terms of the assessment of an impact on a community, again, I think the planning system has done it for a long time and people are used to assessing impacts. So, to me, there isn't really any reason why it shouldn't be able to be done. So, I don't know. But it is a difficult thing. When we were in the planning inspectorate, it was at a time when the Welsh Government was moving towards recognising, if you like, the impact. We regard it—and I can't find it now, but I think it talks about the socioeconomic impact of development, and Welsh language is bound up with that, obviously.

So, I would say that it's crucial. It's very important, it's being more recognised and is becoming an accepted part of the planning system now. The planning system has advanced over the 30 or however many years I've been involved in it from not getting involved in design, for example, to recognising that it's much more than that and that planning should be holistic, and they're looking at a lot of these things. Sometimes, you are limited by legislation, but, frequently, it's simply by acceptance of what planning should encompass. And I think there's now an acceptance of that and, to me, it's necessary for local planning authorities to recognise and move it forward themselves. If they require—and I think a lot of authorities are now requiring language impact assessments, it's to do that—. But then, again, there must be best practice out there. Gathering best practice is one thing that's been missing and—

11:45

Well, there you are. I find it hard to believe that, somewhere, somebody hasn't done one that was probably very good, but nobody knows about it. And that's part of the problem with the planning system. These things do take place. Again, it may not be done by a local authority; it might be done by an agent, an applicant, a planning professional—I don't know—but we like to think that it is. But, again, Welsh Government could be collecting some of these things and disseminating them.

It's fair to say that language impact assessment methodologies are not as frequent or as well developed as those for other areas. The other issue around any form of assessment is whether—it's not necessarily just the creation of them—the decision makers have the ability to interpret them effectively. Hence, some local authorities commission analyses of appraisals to verify that work. And I suppose that would apply equally to language impact assessment as to anything else.

Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to ask you about the 12 objectives—well, really, the kind of process that we've arrived at and what is or isn't going to be the main focus of the NDF. How robust was it, in your view—both the development and the evaluation of those 12 objectives?

There's a lot more to be found—. When you read the main consultation document, it's not necessarily obvious how they've been run, but what are much better are some of the appendices that support that, which give an indication that there's been a review of other Welsh Government policies and strategies as a way of distilling from them what the NDF could do in relation to supporting those, because that's one of the crucial aspects of the NDF. It's a land use document, but it also gives expression to a wide range of other Welsh Government policies.

In terms of how robust it's been, it's difficult to say because, again, the consultation's live. But there's certainly a narrative and a rationale there. It doesn't seem to have been as extensive a piece of work as what went into the Wales spatial plan in trying to knit together how it could support the wider range of Welsh Government strategies and policies. I need to look at it in a bit more detail, but there is a rationale there for how they've come up with them, but it's buried a little bit further down in some of the appendices.

Yes, it's actually accessing them—. You go through a number of documents before you get down to that level of detail. When I initially looked at them, I did look to see where it had come from, and I wasn't too clear, but, again, like Neil, I found that and it was logical, by looking at other sectors. I mean, when I read them, I thought that there's a very good set of objectives. I think it's fine. Whether the process of arriving at them is robust enough—again, what other way could they have done it? That's one of the questions you ask yourself.

Well, that was going to be my next question actually. Was there a better way to have done it or is this as good as it could be in the circumstances, I guess?

It seems to be a sort of synthesis of other things in the Welsh Government's sphere of responsibilities and plans. So, in that sense, you could say that, yes, it is robust. I don't have a complete overview of everything Welsh Government does to know whether it's covered every area, but I would imagine it has. It looks very thorough, certainly on the face of what I've seen, having found it—you could be signposting things better—but, having found it, yes, it did cover a huge range of these things and it was seemingly well presented. So, in that sense, to me, it seemed to—. Frequently with these things, can you find something? If you can find something and can find where it comes from, that always is better. If there's nothing there, then it raises an issue. But if you can find something and see that a process of thought has gone through, to me, that usually is sufficient.

11:50

So, actually, the signposting and direction might be something you could look at improving.

One additional point, relating to a discussion we were having prior to coming into the committee, was that that work is trying to distil a range of issues from a wide range of Welsh Government policies and strategies. But there are already objectives in 'Planning Policy Wales', and we were having a little discussion around to what extent this document is getting the balance right between drawing down from all these other strategies and there already being objectives expressed in 'Planning Policy Wales' closely aligned to the planning system from which it could draw across.

We were querying, weren't we, John, about whether there's potential there for some form of duplication, or needing to just double check that relationship with 'Planning Policy Wales' and it's high-level objectives, and there being now another set of objectives and whether they are properly integrated and aligned?

Thanks, Chair. This is similar to Dawn's question. The Welsh Government's also been through a process for evaluating the four options and coming up with the preferred option. So, how robust do you think that process has been, and how could that have been improved?

When I started reading the options, I started identifying the issues with them. I wondered where we're actually going with it. So, I'm glad, actually, they ended up with something that was, if you like, a culling of the best aspects, because I thought that was the right way. When I looked at them, I thought you can make some very strong criticisms of each option. So, when I went through that and looked at the integrated sustainability appraisal, I saw the process they'd gone through and I thought that was a good way of doing it.

The fifth option—the do-nothing option, if you like—is something you need to do; you have to think, 'Well, if we do nothing, is that a better option than doing something else?' So, yes, you need to look at the options. Again, if you think of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, what it tries to get you to do is to think of these things, to think of all the different things you could do. Rather than coming up with an answer, think of other things, think of the different options: 'If I don't do that, what else could I do? Do nothing? Maybe. Can't do anything. So, should we just be looking at the economy? Should we be looking at everything else?'

I thought the process was sound. You could come up with other options, but the four options were actually very good in the sense they identified some of the issues that you needed to think about. So, what should we be looking at, to Wales in the future, and what form should it take? So, that gave an expression to some things that might be regarded as a bit extreme, like concentrating all on the economy, all on the growth areas. No, you don't want to do that. Yes, you could say they picked the best bits, but, to me, that was a good thing—identify what the problems were with the different options and see what other things you could do to answer those and come up with the final one. Whether that's the best option is a different one, but I can see why it could be the preferred option.

I didn't see them—. When I first saw the options, I thought—. Given that it's a national development framework, and given the earlier approach to the Wales spatial plan, I was looking for spatial options, and I thought some of these were implicitly spatial options: focusing on areas of greatest growth or thinking about a more balanced form of development. And then I progressed to options 3 and 4 and thought, 'They're not really options in a proper sense.' They weren't, 'I'll choose that one or choose that one'. They were options in the sense of being a thought process—almost extremes. It's like when you do scenario-type work. You choose an extreme: 'Well, let's just go for decarbonisation totally, or let's go for growth entirely', and inevitably the outcome is a hybrid of a number of those things. So, I didn't see them as necessarily discrete options but as a thought process that gets us there.

What might be interesting is whether, in later stages of the NDF, we start to get genuinely spatial options being entertained, about where development goes, or where it might go, and those being alternatives. So, I look forward to whether there are more concrete options at later stages, which we don't know if there yet will be. So, yes, I didn't—. Some of them are options; others were just themes, really. And there's that hybrid, which is the, 'Well, none of them seem to work properly; there are nice bits of different ones and we'll just weld together those best bits'. So, it's a thought process more than anything.

11:55

Yn dod at, felly, yr opsiwn sy'n cael ei ffafrio ar gyfer y fframwaith datblygu cenedlaethol, rwyf jest eisiau cael eich barn chi'n gyffredinol ar yr opsiwn hwnnw, ac yn enwedig efallai y cysyniad yma o greu lleoedd, fel yr egwyddor gyntaf. A ydy hynny'n ddigon uchelgeisiol o ran efallai trio newid y pwyslais o'r gyfundrefn gynllunio i fod wedi ei alinio'n fwy efo'r Ddeddf? A ydy o'n ddigon uchelgeisiol i gyrraedd at yr aliniad yna rydym ni'n chwilio amdano fo efo'r Ddeddf? A ydy o'n uchelgeisiol o ran adlewyrchu'r teimlad bod y farchnad yn dal i reoli mewn gwirionedd, felly, a bod yr angen lleol ddim yna wrth roi'r pwyslais ar leoedd a dim sôn am bobl a chymunedau? A ydym ni dal yn y tir yma o chwilio am y balans a thrio cadw datblygwyr yn hapus ond trio symud ychydig bach i'r cyfeiriad efallai y mae'r Ddeddf eisiau ein gweld ni'n mynd tuag ato?

We'll come on therefore to the preferred option for the NDF. I would just like your views in general about that option, and particularly this concept of placemaking, as the first principle. Is that ambitious enough in terms of trying to change the emphasis in the planning system to become more closely aligned with the Act? So, is it sufficiently ambitious to reach that alignment that we're seeking with the Act, and is it ambitious enough in terms of reflecting the sense that the market is still dominating, in truth, and that local need isn't there in having put the emphasis on places, rather than talking about people and communities? Do you think that we're still in this position of seeking a balance and trying to keep developers happy, but also trying to move a little in the direction that the Act would like to see us move in?

I quite like the fact that placemaking was adopted. I'm a town planner. Places matter; places, in fact, and a range of other things—people's everyday lives. So, I thought, 'What else would you go for?' Because, again, echoing back to what the Wales spatial plan was entitled—'People, Places, Futures'—'places' is something that was embedded there, and we know that there's a significant diversity of places across Wales as well. So, I felt that it as an appropriate hook and first principle to put in place. It echoes also the approach that's been taken in Scotland, which has, similarly, got a strong place dimension underpinning its national planning framework for Scotland. So, I thought it was positive and overarching. I can see that it captures quite well how planners would be thinking holistically about places and balancing the various considerations that impact upon, and characterise, that place. So, I thought that if you've got anything in there that leaves open the option to think about how an individual place—what makes that place—. I think that was important. I was applauding it for being sufficiently developed. It was hard to see how you would go one way or the other. Place is what matters to planners and I think it could well work—

You're saying there 'what matters to planners'. What about communities and people?

Well, I think it's equally important to—. We live somewhere, we work somewhere, we travel somewhere, we have friends over, we value things about the places in which we live—

They are, yes. They are also people, yes.

Don't you think just having the words 'people' and 'communities' there at that high level would give actually a different message from where we've been going so far?

Yes, because there is that cohesive communities and Welsh language dimension, isn't there? So—

Yes, so places and communities—there would be different ways of cutting it, but I think, yes—. It's a tension open to discussion.

Yes. It is—. I mean, it's what—.

It's an ideological question really, isn't it? It's about what you think the planning system is about, really: is it about just defining on maps areas that can be developed, whatever, or is it about actually trying to respond to what communities feel are the needs of their spatial areas? So, there is a difference, I think, if you're putting the emphasis on places—it's a little bit more bland and further removed from the other kind of ideological stand. I don't know if I'm explaining myself there.

No, I think you explain it very well, but I think the planning system has to do both. it has to—. This is one of the issues with what communities want. Communities want certain things that the planning system can provide, but sometimes the planning system says, 'We need more housing in wherever', and the people say, 'Well, we don't want them next to us.' Again, that may be for very good reasons: that may be because it's a site of special scientific interest or because the local traffic system—

12:00

Cynhaliwyd munud o dawelwch i nodi blwyddyn ers y tân yn Nhŵr Grenfell.

A minute’s silence was held to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Yes, it is—. People may have genuine and proper planning objections to a development but, sometimes, the needs of development will take precedence, and that's where the planning system has to do that. So, the balance—the working with developers—is going to stay. But there has to be more working with local communities, I think you'd recognise. And, if development takes place, there can be benefits from that development taking place, so, sometimes, there's a need to explain that. But, yes, in that sense, the placemaking thing that the PPW is trying to do—

I think it's intended to. I read it as something that is ambitious. I read it as something that is primed to make the planners in the planning system recognise that they're not just reacting to housing figures, for example, housing targets, call it what you will. There's far more to it than that. And that's the difficulty and that's sometimes where the arguments with developers just get bound up. You need a five-year housing land supply. You don't have it. You need more housing. We need to provide it. Well, yes, that may be true, but, to me, it's always been: the planning system should deliver the right development at the right time in the right place. That's what it is. And 'right' means right not just for the community, but for the wider community as well. It might not just be part of the city, it might be the whole of the city. So, yes, there are difficulties with this and we've had discussions with the commissioner. In the conference, I tried to make the point that the planning system faces difficult decisions and you have to balance many things out together. You sometimes end up with an adverse impact on something, which you would not want to do, but that may be inevitable. A greenfield site is a classic example. If there's nowhere else to build, you have to have a greenfield site.

Symud ymlaen felly, at y tair thema sydd yn gorwedd o dan yr egwyddor gyntaf yma o'r creu lleoedd—lleoedd unigryw a naturiol, cynhyrchiol a mentrus, actif a chymdeithasol. A ydych chi'n meddwl bod y tri yna'n cyfleu, eto, yr hyn mae'r Ddeddf cenedlaethau'r dyfodol yn ceisio ei wneud?

We'll move on, therefore, to the three themes that lie beneath this first principle of placemaking— distinct and natural places, productive and enterprising places, and active and social places. Do you believe that those three themes convey, once again, what the future generations Act is seeking to do?

I'm not sure whether it would embrace everything there, but I saw these as society, economy and environment. That seemed to be that triad of things, given slightly more elaborate names. So, you know, you think, well, 'distinctive and natural places'—okay, potentially, environment. 'Productive and enterprising places'—that's the economy bit. And then we have the society bit. So, it's got those. Whether just looking at it through that triad of issues would lead to a full embracing of well-being—. Potentially. So, because of how—. Whether you think there's anything in the well-being of future generations Act that can't be embraced by that more reductionist and simplified way of putting those objectives in—.

Yes. It's a nice way that Neil puts it. Again, when I read them, I did have that conscious thought, 'Are there other things? Does it encapsulate, if you like, a place that people would like to live in?' And I think it probably does, and I think that's the intention behind it. Does it deliver the goals of the—? There are seven goals in the well-being of future generations Act. I think it probably does, because they encapsulate a lot of things and I think that this is going towards that aim. But I think time will tell, isn't it? We're in the early stages of something that is very new, and, at the moment, from my point of view, it's moving in the direction that it should. Again, it's delivering sustainable development, which is what the Act is about; it's public bodies delivering sustainable development. And you're going towards that way by thinking of them. Maybe it's simply trying to think of them in ways that mean things to people who aren't occupied with what the well-being of future generations Act says. 'Distinctive and natural places': I think that probably means something to people. Again, it may be part of the intention to try and break this down into plain English, in a way.

12:05

Thematically, it's also valuable in trying to get us away from thinking, 'Where's the housing bit of the idea, where's the language bit, where's the business and economy bit?' It does help to—. If you think—and someone mentioned it earlier—about counties and the other structural plans, they were very much kind of that chapter orientation around topics. This thematic approach I think just gets us away from that a bit in a very valuable way.

Although those are the nitty gritty. You know, the housing thing is what people will focus on eventually. So—.

Well, yes. Yes. I suspect that a lot of planning officers are a bit concerned about the new 'Planning Policy Wales', because, again, it's very easy to look at a specific topic, but sometimes you shouldn't be doing that, you should be looking wider, and it becomes more difficult to do that, yes. We recognise that.

Okay. And, about the regional approach and the three regions that are being offered here in the preferred option, what do you think about the regional approach to start off with? Is it useful and are there other regions that could be identified?

I produced a report with some colleagues from my school, which did some analysis on a functional basis for Welsh Government around regional areas for the NDF. That identified, I believe, four regions, which was our functional approach, weighting various factors. So, the composite outcome for us was four regions. When I saw the three, I thought, 'Well, it clearly goes against what we were—'

I think Powys was almost standalone—

And then Ceredigion went in with south-west, rather than—. So, what I think this does is it collapses two of our regions. It takes south-west Wales and lumps it in with Powys and Ceredigion, which—on the basis of our evidence, some of the functional relationships just weren't there to suggest it worked as a region, in that sense. We also identified a range of other—. If you wanted to emphasise one particular function or theme, you could end up with different regions. So, yes, I thought the four worked better than the three I see in the document. Whether we go back to fuzzy boundaries, which was one of the critiques, and potentially reflects the reality of people moving across and regions not being hard and fast boundaries—. But, yes, this appears to have gone for a harder delineation of regions. The number—as I say, our evidence, which we presented, was for four rather than three.

Did you look at dismembering Powys? I mean, Montgomeryshire as part of north Wales, parts of Radnorshire and Brecon as either part of south-west Wales or part of south Wales in terms of commuter territory. You didn't think of sort of dismembering it?

We did invite people, as part of that research project, to think about whether you might have overlapping regions, rather than a place being in one region, but it was just felt to be rather confusing by our stakeholders if it was in more than one. Plus, you've got—. So, it's what function these regions serve for the purpose of the NDF that's important as well, isn't it? So, what will be the regional component, I suppose, to flesh out and explore that a little bit further. We know from what's already in the consultation document that that regional element will include something around policy-based regional household projections work, but it's difficult to know what else will be regional in the NDF at the present time. So, there's still a lot of deliberation as to whether they're the right number, whether they're the right ones, what function they're going to serve. As I say, I would like to see the NDF giving a nudge to regional work; I wouldn't necessarily like to see it doing that regional work. So, it may be that it doesn't do an awful lot—it does enough; it casts out regions, maybe the framework for others working together. It might be a range of different things.

Yes. I would argue that we've had functional regions in Wales since the English crown imposed counties on us to break up rebellion and we've suffered from that for over 800 years. But the point I wanted to make—serious point—is around your fuzzy regions approach. So, on other committees on which we sit, I have a different regional approach. So, we've taken evidence this week on the future of structural funds in Wales. It was a four-regions approach. So, you've got the two city regions, basically. You've got mid and west Wales, or mid Wales rather, which is a growth deal, and that's slightly fuzzy because maybe a bit of Meirionnydd could come into that, even though it's in Gwynedd. And then you've got the north Wales ambition board, which is a different region again. So, you've got one approach, potentially, around regional development and funding. You've got a different approach for planning. They have to match, surely. I think I've read that we have something like 40-odd different regional footprints that we have in Wales. Okay, they don't all have to be perfectly aligned, because there are some issues around particular services. Health may be a good example there. But when you come to place making, when you come to the three themes that have been identified, they have to match together—I'm tempting you—to stand firm. I don't think this three-region approach actually delivers that, does it? 

12:10

As I say, our work was looking at that wide range of different functions and the four-region outcome is the composite, which is the weighting of different elements. So, it is functional. We feel those regions are ones that work functionally, but there are elements as well of thinking about, well, actually, sometimes administrative boundaries do matter, even in terms of securing funding and delivering, where an LDP is going to have to be. So, to some extent, you might say, well, actually, local authority area boundaries have to then be factored into that as well. So, yes, we want functional—. I suppose you could go back to basics and say, 'Is it right for the NDF to do anything of a regional nature?' Present arrangements suggest that it is, and just to get some more clarity about why that regional element—what function does it serve? What purpose is it serving?

And should it be, rather, designed slightly more organically by those authorities, in particular, clustering together, for example, on the housing side? You talked earlier about the example, many moons ago, of south-east Wales, but if that were to happen now, you would at least have a national framework to plug into, and therefore it would strengthen it. I can see political problems straight away here—that's another matter—but trying to get somebody in Llanfyllin to think they're in south-west Wales and have got something in common with housing predictions including Pembrokeshire—it just seems very strange to me.

Local planning authorities have already had that option. They've had statutory tariffs for SDPs, which is all of one local authority and part—at least part—of another. It doesn't require them to necessarily go—

They haven't done that for some of that, but they have been doing it on city deals now. They have been doing it now on the future of—. Well, practically, with European funding, which is a very artificial line anyway. We have fuzzy reasons in European funding. Everyone thinks about the hard lines of Objective 1 but, in fact, you can spend outside Objective 1. You can involve other people, as long as you can demonstrate that this is for benefit, and the majority of benefit is—. That's called bending, of course. Do we need a bit more bending in these regions?

You mentioned the city regions, and I though when that started to come forward, we would then see an impetus behind SDPs. For the life of me, I fail to understand why. To me, the planning system is how you actually deliver these things, if you're going to get it working. And I mean, you have a better overview than Neil and me of all these different boundaries that are taking place, and, yes, it does seem strange, but, again, Neil made the point: you've got to think, 'What is the NDF trying to do?' And it maybe is a good reason to have a different regional boundary, if you go down that route. Neil's fourth was Powys, central-east Wales. So, even with the large regions, as you say, it's difficult, but it gets more difficult when you talk about place making, and then you have something with a region of that size in it—I think it makes it difficult.

Thank you. We have gone over time. If you'll give us another five minutes, Joyce Watson has got some questions to ask.

I wanted to ask whether, in your view, potential impacts of Brexit—whatever that is—have been considered in the preferred option and also the NDF process more generally.

[Inaudible.] Neil and I did have a think, 'What would we say about this?' Right. My approach to this is simply this: whatever happens with Brexit, you're going to need a planning system. Brexit may, at some point—. If and when we are in that situation where we have left, we'll know where we are, and it might be that the option that is before us at the moment has become part of the NDF; maybe that will need to be reviewed. But I think that's down the line. You can only plan on the basis of what you know at the moment. Looking to the future, we'll need a planning system. I think this has the potential to be a much better planning system than we've had and do have at the moment. So, I would say we push forward with this, and if we need it, then the NDF can be reviewed in the future. But, at the moment, nobody knows what form Brexit might take or what the direct impact might be. That's the way that I see it, anyway, from where I sit. So, yes, we need to go down this route, but maybe in the future we'll need to modify the NDF that we end up with, and there's a process in place to do that anyway.

12:15

I just had two points: one of them is the process point. I think the Wales spatial plan was revised from time to time as was seen fit, which tended to be a four-year cycle but then kind of petered out. I think, if I'm correct, the 2015 Act puts the NDF on a specific cycle of review—

Five years. So, I suppose it would be better to think about the implications of Brexit when we know what Brexit is, I suppose. The second point was—

The second point was about process. Clearly, being a member of the European Union brings us into the remit of certain directives that have an impact on processes by which things like the NDF are produced. So, some of the appraisal methodologies we were talking about kind of are from that. However, I can't see it being—. I don't think anyone in a sensible mind would say that we would abandon those processes. So, we might get part way through Brexit and, therefore, certain things would not technically apply, but I can't see anyone, kind of, abandoning the idea of doing the SEA because it's a logical, sensible process, from a planning perspective in any case. 

I want to ask another question, because—[Inaudible.]—clearly is a mess, in my opinion. Is this fleet of foot so that, should we find out that some of the things that are being considered as the outcome of Brexit, or the possible outcome affecting our economy in the way that those projections are currently—is this fleet of foot enough, this system that's in place, to react if that's what's needed? Let's be clear: if large-scale companies suddenly move out of what are currently identified as thriving areas and they don't have that status any more—and that could happen pretty quickly—is this planning system being set up going to be able to react quickly in the way that it's now formulated?

My first reaction to the idea of whether it's swift enough is that the NDF preparations are basically a five-year process, and we're about halfway through it. So, it would be a cumbersome process to go through that again, and the Act does say that the revisions are pretty much like the preparation process itself. So, would you need something swifter? I imagine there would be Welsh Government strategies of a different nature—non-statutory, perhaps—that would react to that circumstance and then the NDF might have to then come into alignment. It's not unusual for other forms of development plan to be in place, to have been recently adopted, and then something quite significant happens. If you think of Newport's LDP and Llanwern, and you think, well, suddenly you've got something that means you have to interpret your planning in a particular way and get on as quickly as you can with the revision, which is, I guess, the scenario that it would be. So, yes, I suppose, if the NDF is a development plan document, then that has a particular implication for decision makers, in determining planning applications in accordance with that plan, unless other factors indicate otherwise. But one of those other factors would be Brexit and its implications, so it doesn't stop us sensibly taking account of circumstance to have an NDF with a certain status: planners will be very adept at taking into account anything that happens subsequent to the adoption or approval of a plan. 

Can I just make a short point—very short? It's all to do with how you see plans, as such. The planning system has the flexibility because the planning system doesn't require you to do exactly what it says in the development plan, including the NDF. So, if something like that were to come along and the Welsh Government says, 'Well, we need to change your approach', it would be able to do that by taking it to the Assembly and putting out a policy statement.

Thank you very much. Thank you for your detailed and enlightening replies and thank you also for staying on the extra 10 minutes so we could complete our list of questions. Thank you very much for coming along.

5. Papur(au) i'w nodi
5. Paper(s) to note

As a committee, we've got three papers to note: the response to our letter on the agricultural wages board; a letter from the Finance Secretary referring to a matter dealt with by the Finance Committee on the tender for the delivery of the next Wales energy saving retrofit measures, and Simon Thomas has passed this letter on to us and to me as Chair, and I've asked if Members want to discuss it in committee. Can we discuss that when we move into private session? So, are you happy to note those? 

12:20

Are we happy to move into private session again under 17.42? Yes.

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 12:20.

The meeting ended at 12:20.

Archwilio Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru