Following my blog 11 days ago on the draft National Planning Policy Framework for England, I'm delighted to introduce this guest blog on Planning Policy Wales by my colleague Christopher O'Brien.

Guest blog by RSPB Cymru Senior Policy Officer Planning, Christopher O’Brien

Planning Policy Wales (PPW) is the place where Welsh Government can be ambitious in setting a long-term vision for how the planning system contributes to achieving sustainable development – helping Wales’ people and nature thrive together. It has recently been re-written to align with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and Environment (Wales) Act 2016.

We recently submitted our response to Welsh Government’s consultation on the re-write. We are heartened that it is a more successful representation of how planning can contribute to sustainable development compared to its predecessor. For example, it proposes that planning decisions in Wales will need to consider the lifetime costs and benefits of development, including those which cannot be easily valued in monetary terms.

We warmly welcome this step change in how Wales’ planning system can help restore ecosystem resilience, reverse the trend of biodiversity decline and provide help Wales’ wildlife with a positive future.

Whilst we support the draft policy in principle, there are still improvements to be made and to secure the good intentions we have called for an unequivocal statement to be included that ‘maintaining and enhancing biodiversity and the resilience of ecosystems is consistent with the proper exercise of the planning functions of all public authorities engaged in planning activity’.

Even before it is introduced, there are signs that the updated policy is having a positive influence on the Welsh planning system. Welsh Government is consulting on the issues and options for the successor to the Wales Spatial Plan (the National Development Framework (NDF). Responding to the lack of resilience in Wales’ ecosystems, the NDF consultation recognises the need to build resilient ecological networks.

We just wish Welsh Government’s draft Wales National Marine Plan had been equally as positive – as it unfortunately prioritises economic growth over the environment. The Welsh Government’s own assessment of its tidal lagoons policy shows risk to more than 70 of the most important designated wildlife sites (Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation and Ramsar Sites) in the four countries of the UK, Republic of Ireland and France. We cannot think of another situation that could have this scale of adverse effects and we continue to call for changes on this matter.

Within such a short time span, how Welsh Government come up with such different approaches is baffling to us. We care about a future for Wales where we live in harmony with nature. To achieve this, changes will be required.