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Welsh planners promised cash under ‘recovery ready’ review

The Welsh Assembly Government is to pump £1.75 million into the country’s planning system, Environment minister Jane Davidson will announce later today as she unveils a wider review of the planning application process

The news come just days after it emerged Housing Minister Margaret Beckett intended to cut government help for English planning authorities by around £75 million, over the next two years, by slashing the housing and delivery grant.

Speaking at the Royal Town Planning Instutute Cymru Annual Conference in Cardiff (2 June), Davidson will pledge £70,000 to all 25 local authorities and a further £250,000 to support ‘cross-Wales activity’. The cash handout is part of a package to simplify and speed up the planning application process and to ensure the system is ‘ready for the economic upturn.’

She told the AJ: ‘I want to see improvements to streamline the [process]…and identify any blockages and potential areas of improvement.’

‘I want to ensure that those regulatory systems for which I am responsible are contributing constructively to economic recovery in Wales.’

The announcement has been welcomed by practices working in Wales. Gary Loo, director at Cardiff-based Boyes Rees Architects said: ‘I’m pleased to see that Wales is looking ahead to the economic upturn to ensure that the construction sector can hit the ground running.

‘In the past we have encountered some problems with delays in the planning process due to the local planning authority struggling for resources.

’ This money [should] be used to increase the number of urban designers for all local authority planning teams, to advise planning case-officers on design matters.

‘This would definitely allow planning applications to be progressed more efficiently.’

Meanwhile Jon Fox, of Capita Symonds, said: ‘It is good news to see that Wales can take proactive steps of its own accord to bring forward a planning system that meets the requirements needs of its customers.

Fox added: ‘However it is equally important that proper planning is maintained and protected, the planning system is an easy target for politicians and it’s good to see that no one is using the phrase “reducing the burden”.

‘Any weakening of standards should be strongly resisted and emphasis on achieving the best outcomes for all should remain paramount.’

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