Creating the right infrastructure for future generations

The way we plan, design and build our communities and infrastructure for the future is critical in addressing long-term challenges and ensuring well-being nationally and locally. Getting planning right can help us meet a number of our well-being goals by helping protect and enhance our ecosystems; strengthening our communities; facilitating healthy and active lifestyles; supporting a modal shift and identifying land for clean energy production and new ways of working and living.

The way places are planned, designed, developed and managed has the potential to positively shape where and how people will live, work, socialise, move about and engage. Placemaking is ensuring that each new development or intervention contributes positively to creating or enhancing environments within which people, communities and businesses can thrive. It places people at the heart of the process and results in places that are vibrant, have a clear identity and where people can develop a sense of belonging.” – Design Commission for Wales 

Planning is consistently the most popular theme that people write to us about. Usually, this relates to specific planning developments people are concerned about. From building on green space, construction of car-dependent developments, to the proliferation of poultry units, some people feel that the Well-being of Future Generations Act is not always applied when it comes to planning decisions. People tell us they often feel that they are not being listened to and they have no avenues for challenging planning decisions.

With around 24,000 planning decisions, being made in Wales each year, the Commissioner is unable to get involved in each one and the legislation does not provide her with the powers and functions to act as an extra layer to appeal in unpopular decisions.

This is why the Commissioner has decided to focus our efforts on ensuring that the policy context, within which the planning system is operating is aligned with the Well-being of Future Generations Act. We have undertaken significant work over the last three years to ensure that national planning policy and frameworks embed the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

Our office worked directly with Welsh Government on Planning Policy Wales 10 to ensure that the elements and vision of the Act is fully reflected in it. The most significant aspect of Planning Policy Wales was the introduction of requirements around placemaking to help us address living conditions that have the biggest impact on our well-being, such as housing, access to nature, tackling air pollution and improving social cohesion.

More recently, we provided advice and comments in relation to Future Wales: The National Development Framework to ensure that it does not weaken the progress made through Planning Policy Wales and that it adequately reflects the nature and climate emergencies.

Our office is also a part of the Placemaking Wales Partnership and worked together with Welsh Government and the Design Commission for Wales on the Placemaking Charter and guidance, which builds on Planning Policy Wales’ focus on placemaking. It provides in more detail the number of considerations that go into placemaking and sets out six placemaking principles that contribute to establishing and maintaining good places.

We have also provided support to the Planning Inspectorate for Wales and the Royal Town Planning Institute to develop their understanding of the Act. 

Below are the areas I recommend that all public bodies, including Welsh Government, should focus on:

  • Ensure Planning Policy Wales 10 is properly implemented
  • Plan for greener places
  • Reduce inequalities through planning
  • Invest time and resources in planning services and placemaking
  • Increase collaboration
  • Reconnect people with planning

For my full evidence, assessment, key findings and advice please see the section on Planning on our designated future generations report website.

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