Planners struggling with big projects in local areas, audit report finds

Planning authorities in Wales are struggling from a lack of support and funding, a report by the Auditor General has revealed.

Shadow Minister for Housing, David Melding AM, has spoken of his concerns over the report’s findings.

The Planning in Wales review shows that planning services in Wales have seen budget cuts of 50% over the past 10 years, resulting in a reduction of skills and capacity for long-term improvement projects.

The report also encompasses the findings of a Wales-wide survey, which shows that public discontent is on the up. 67% of those surveyed stated that planning authorities are not effectively engaging with them about their proposals, and many reported that they feel planners are more focussed on individual applications – which are within their smaller capabilities – and less on supporting the creation of larger projects for a better and more sustainable society.

Five key recommendations have come from the report. Improvements are required in communication with applicants when making decisions; addressing deficits in funding and working collaboratively to increase capacity; strengthening decision making; and encouraging planning departments to create clearer and more ambitious visions for their local areas.

Commenting, Mr Melding said:

“Local planners form the foundation of improvement projects across Wales. We’ve known for some time that these services are struggling in Wales but the scale of the warning in this week’s review makes for worrying reading.

“We see from the report’s recommendations that there could be a clear way to begin improving services, and I urge the Welsh Government to heed the advice and action these findings as soon as possible.

“There is a housing crisis in this country, and with planning services at the frontline of some of the big decisions aimed at improving the future of local areas, the Welsh Government must give them the best tools to make the difference they’re entrusted with.”