Posted: Wed 4th Oct 2023

Plea for More Flexibility on DNS Plans Falls on Deaf Ears, Says Welsh Government Official /
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 4th, 2023

A PLEA for more flexibility to allow Blaenau Gwent planners more time to consider plans for Developments of National Significance (DNS) has fallen on deaf ears.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday, October 5,  councillors are set to receive the response of the Welsh Government’s chief planning officer, Vicky Robinson.
This follows a letter sent by the council to PEDW (Planning and Environment Decisions Wales) and the Welsh Government detailing the “concerns and frustration” county borough planners have with the process.
The letter written by development and estates service manager Steve Smith on behalf of the Planning Committee explains that the problems centre on the need to report back on Development of National Significance (DNS) applications to tight deadlines – while lacking the resources to be able to do this.
Ms Robinson said: “I do understand and sympathise with your position regarding resources to support DNS work.
“The timescale and processes we are obliged to follow are set out in the regulations and therefore we are not at liberty to allow flexibility on the timescale for submissions despite the concerns you have raised.
“I am sorry for the difficulties this causes during periods of high staff absence and the effect it is having on the wellbeing of the team.”
She adds that PEDW is also “working extremely hard” to tackle the planning appeals backlog.
In September’s Planning meeting it was explained to councillors that the purpose of contacting PEDW was to try and “open dialogue” with PEDW and the Welsh Government on the issues.
Committee chairwoman, Cllr Lisa Winnett said that other local authorities across Wales were also facing the exact same problems.
Proposals classified as DNS mean that Blaenau Gwent is a consultee rather than decision-maker, with the Welsh Government deciding the application.
Many of these are on energy projects such as wind turbine proposals – and several of these are now happening in Blaenau Gwent.
Inspectors will look at all the information provided in the DNS application and eventually give advice to the Welsh Government on what decision to make.
A Welsh Government minister will then announce the decision.
Local authorities feed into the process by producing a factual Local Impact Report (LIR).
Later the council will be able to submit its views on the development and say whether it is “for, against or neutral” on the application.
This work is on top of the usual planning caseload of staff and if reports are not submitted within five week period local authorities lose a £7,500 fee.
Blaenau Gwent has already lost one fee when an application went live over the Christmas period when people were on holiday.
Councillors are expected to note the correspondence. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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