We have now archived the pages detailing CPRW Powys branches’ work on the progress of the Powys Local Development Plan (LDP), but these remain available to access via the links below.
The Powys branches of CPRW submitted representations to the various consultation stages of the LDP, which showed promising progress from a shaky start right up until the public consultation on Further Focussed Changes in late 2016:
DRAFT DEPOSIT CONSULTATION JUNE 2015: In July 2015, the branches responded to the Draft Deposit Plan. Of particular concern was the unorthodox structure of the Plan and absence of development specific policies. We were also concerned about the inadequacy of protections for biodiversity, landscape, rural amenity, historic environment and tourism, and that the wording of some policies, including renewable energy policies, was insufficiently clear to provide a clear framework for development, or to provide for rigorous assessment of development impacts. Similarly, we set out our concerns regarding the mismatch between the proposed annual monitoring regime and the stated objectives of the LDP.
FOCUSSED CHANGES JANUARY 2016: Powys branches’ response at this stage recognised significant improvements since Draft Deposit, though no improvement in the proposed monitoring regime. We submitted comments where it was felt that plan policies would still fail to provide adequate protections, and resubmitted our comments on monitoring. Focussed Changes are usually the final amendments to an LDP.
MAY 2016 WELSH GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR’S EXPLORATORY MEETING: Powys LDP was submitted to the Inspector for examination in January 2016. In May 2016, a public ‘Exploratory Meeting’ was held in which the Inspector set out her major concerns, largely focussed around housing allocations, and the examination of the LDP was suspended for six months for the Council to work on the Inspector’s areas of concern.
FURTHER FOCUSSED CHANGES OCTOBER 2016 – LOCAL SEARCH AREAS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY INTRODUCED: Given the focus of the Exploratory Meeting, and the Inspector’s apparent broad acceptance of renewable energy policies as drafted, it was a shock to Powys residents to find that the October 2016 revision of the LDP included the allocation of swathes of Powys countryside, amounting to almost 40% of the land area outside the National Park, for search areas for large scale solar and wind farm development. This was coupled with a renewable energy target for the LDP period of 600MW, equivalent to 300 industrial scale wind turbines, a target which appeared intended to be achieved outside the Strategic Search Areas (SSAs) established by Technical Advice Note 8 and in addition to development within SSAs.
Examination of the underlying Renewable Energy Assessment, produced by consultants AECOM, made it clear that Welsh Government guidance had not been followed, despite close Welsh Government involvement in the development of this section of the LDP, and that AECOM’s reports, adopted wholesale by Powys Council, contained methodological and arithmetical errors of very significant scale. In particular, no assessment of Powys landscapes had been conducted to inform the LDP, nor was there any assessment of landscape impacts of proposed Local Search Areas.
The inclusion of this major change in the direction of the LDP at such a late stage of LDP development had the result that many environmental bodies, town and community councils, residents and even County Councillors were entirely unaware of the proposals, and it fell to CPRW Powys branches to raise the alert. The LDP team were overwhelmed by an unprecedented response from more than 500 individuals and organisations, expressing concern both at the proposals themselves and the manner of their introduction. The branches were able, thanks to a magnificent response from residents to an appeal for funds, to engage planning barrister Tina Douglass to advise, and represent the branches at the LDP Examination.
LINKS TO ARCHIVED PAGES: POWYS LDP, FURTHER FOCUSSED CHANGES APPEAL
WELSH GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR’S LDP EXAMINATION – 2017 AND 2018: In response to the public outcry, Powys commissioned a revised version of the AECOM Renewable Energy Assessment, together with a report from the consultants Enplan to examine the landscape impacts of revised proposals for solar energy search areas. As a result, the Inspector’s Examination of the LDP began while RE policies were still undergoing revision, with all hearings except renewable energy taking place in the spring and summer of 2017 and renewable energy hearings following in January 2018. This is far from ideal since the examination is intended to look at a plan’s ‘soundness’ a key component of which is internal consistency, but our barrister’s arguments were overruled by the Welsh Government representative. It was also widely felt that by the time of the Hearings for renewable energy, the Inspector might be unwilling to agree to any further change, and that the late hearings might be something of a formality.
LINKS TO ARCHIVED PAGES: POWYS LDP EXAMINATION – THE PROCESS
MATTERS ARISING CHANGES SEPTEMBER 2017: ’Matters arising’ are, or should be, the changes resulting from the Inspector’s examination process, though in this instance they included the further revision of the renewable energy policy, following receipt of revised renewable energy assessment from AECOM and the accompanying landscape sensitivity study by Enplan.
AECOM very substantially revised the 2016 Renewable Energy Assessment, and the adjustments to constraints applied led to the conclusion that while Powys could accommodate a number of Local Search Areas for solar development there was no scope for the designation of further search areas in Powys for large scale wind farm development. Enplan’s landscape study reduced the number of solar Local Search Areas from AECOM’s suggested 33 search areas to a final total of 20. CPRW Brecon & Radnor branch employed their own landscape consultant, Michelle Bolger, whose assessments of landscape sensitivity were consistently higher than Enplan’s and we argued for the removal of several further LSAs. We also objected to the methodology of the designation of LSAs, and to the wording of policy, which we felt failed to adopt clearly understood legal language.
LINK TO ARCHIVED PAGES: POWYS LOCAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN – MATTERS ARISING CHANGES CONSULTATION
WHAT DID WE ACHIEVE?
Renewable energy Policy RE1: The scale of local objection to the extraordinary initial proposals for Local Search Areas across much of upland Powys brought about a very significant revision. Wind Local Search Areas were abandoned as AECOM’s 2017 Renewable Energy Assessment, following Welsh Government guidelines, concluded that there was no scope in Powys for the designation of further search areas for large scale wind development. Solar search areas were greatly reduced in extent and a landscape study removed some of the search areas containing the most sensitive landscapes. While there is certainly still cause for concern, this more considered approach must result in a better outcome for residents, our landscapes and our natural environment, and we are grateful that Powys Council recognised that the application of more appropriate constraints and an accompanying landscape study is essential to achieving the more appropriate siting of search areas for renewable energy developments.
Intensive Livestock Units: CPRW B&R’s arguments for an intensive livestock policy, and our submission, at the Inspector’s request, of a suggestion for policy wording, were ultimately unsuccessful and Powys Council declined to include such a policy. This was a missed opportunity, not least because on 12th June 2018 the Chief Planning Officer wrote this letter to Councils to recommend the inclusion of such a policy in their LDPs. For the first time in a Powys LDP, these potentially polluting developments are at least mentioned, in the text guidance attached to the air quality policy DM14.
Landscape Policy DM4: While Powys Council did not agree to a county wide Landscape study to underpin the LDP, nor to the designation of Special Landscape Areas, CPRW Powys branches were very pleased that the final iteration of the LDP responded to at least some of our concerns and did include a policy for the protection of our outstanding landscapes.
Strategic Resources Policy SP7: We were very pleased that the definition of ‘Strategic Resources and Assets’ in the county was extended and particularly pleased to see the inclusion, for which we had argued, of landscape and rights of way.
Design and resources DM13: The enhanced protection within this policy of residential amenity, highway safety and of tourism assets and businesses was, we argued, essential and we are glad to see their inclusion.
Further detail on arguments won and lost can be found on POWYS LDP UPDATE 2/8/2017
Powys LDP documents can now be found on the following links: