THE first Welsh Government national development framework, Future Wales – the national plan 2040, has been published. Future Wales is a new kind of development plan which provides a national spatial strategy setting out where Wales should focus development over the next 20 years to address key national priorities through the planning system, including sustaining and developing a vibrant economy, supporting our town and city centres, achieving decarbonisation and climate‑resilience, developing strong ecosystems and improving the health and well‑being of our communities. Future Wales reflects the lessons being learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic.
A fundamental aim of Future Wales is to ensure the planning system at all levels is consistent with and supports the delivery of, the Welsh Government’s strategic aims and policies. A number of Welsh Government strategies and policies have therefore informed and helped shape Future Wales, including the Welsh National Marine Plan, the Transport Strategy, the National Natural Resources Policy and the Low Carbon Wales plan. The relationship is two‑way, with Future Wales taking their strategic direction and providing a means of delivery and a framework for maximising the potential positive outcomes. As other strategies and policies are reviewed and updated they will reflect and take account of the spatial priorities identified in Future Wales.
Our planning system is a development plan led. Development plans must be prepared at national, regional and local scales, with the three tiers together in combination comprising ‘the development plan’. As the national spatial strategy, Future Wales provides the national tier and sets the direction for strategic and local development plans. Future Wales will help inform the delivery of regionally-based strategic development plans through the new Corporate Joint Committees (introduced under the Local Government Elections Act 2021). Supporting stronger regional working will allow local development plans to focus on locally distinctive issues. Future Wales itself will be part of the evidence base for strategic and local development plans, so less time will need to be spent compiling background papers and more time and effort can go into discussions with communities and developers and the important work of making better places locally.
Future Wales is also essential to help shape the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, as set out in Building Better Places (published in July 2020). The spatial policies support growth in city-regions, regionally important towns and coastal communities across Wales (the type of places that research suggests may suffer economically as a result of Covid-19) and strong, resilient rural areas. Through Future Wales the Welsh Government will promote sustainable schemes that help areas to recover, be more resilient and to thrive following this pandemic.
Future Wales builds on Planning Policy Wales which is the land-use planning policy document for Wales and the foundation of all national, regional and local planning policies. The advent of Future Wales as a national development plan has necessitated revisions to Planning Policy Wales to ensure that the content of the two documents is aligned. In particular, some of the policy contexts in Planning Policy Wales has been clarified and made more explicit to support policies in Future Wales. Other changes to Planning Policy Wales are essentially factual, reflecting updates to legislation, policy and guidance which impact on the planning system and planning policy changes that have been made since the previous edition was published. As a result, a new edition of Planning Policy Wales is also being published today.
The publication of Future Wales also marks the beginning of its implementation. As first steps, officials will be meeting all local authorities to discuss Future Wales, and we will be preparing guidance on specific subjects to support its implementation and establishing the monitoring process.