Wales politics

Bill takes 'too much power' from communities, warn council leaders

house building
Image caption Ministers have said they want to 're-energise' the planning system to support economic growth

Seven council leaders say a new planning bill will take too much power from local communities and hand it to Cardiff Bay.

They said the Planning Bill will mean decisions over matters such as housing projects will be taken by Welsh ministers rather than councils.

There are fears it could be harder for people to fight controversial planning applications, including windfarms.

Ministers said they want decisions to be based on "community engagement".

The Bill, unveiled in October, seeks to "strengthen and modernise" the planning process to boost the economy and provide "the homes, jobs and infrastructure that Wales requires", the Welsh government said at the time.

Mel Nott, the Labour leader of First Minister Carwyn Jones's local authority in Bridgend, is among the council leaders who have signed a joint letter to ministers.

'Momentum'

The objection comes after the Labour leader of Carmarthenshire council, Kevin Madge, complained last week that the same bill did little to protect the Welsh language.

The letter, released on Thursday night, says: "We are concerned... about the number of ways in which the Bill proposes centralising power in Cardiff.

"We strongly believe that councils should have the freedom to set housing targets based on local needs independent of central government."

The letter repeats Mr Madge's calls for the impact on Welsh language to be taken into account before housing developments can go ahead.

Council leaders who signed the letter to ministers

Mel Nott - Bridgend

Jamie Adams - Pembrokeshire

Mark Pritchard - Wrexham

Kevin Madge - Carmarthenshire

Dilwyn Roberts - Conwy

Ieuan Williams - Anglesey

Ellen ap Gwynn - Ceredigion

Welsh language campaigners believe ministers will now be forced to think again.

Tamsin Davies, from Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg said: "Momentum is definitely behind our campaign, and by now I think it will be impossible for the government to refuse changes to the Bill - there's too much opposition.

"We have provided Welsh government with a large number of options for clauses to include in the Bill, and we will be meeting them again next week to discuss it further."

A Welsh government spokesman said: "The Planning Bill seeks to improve the planning system in Wales for everyone's benefit, irrespective of which language they speak, and key to this is ensuring that planning decisions are based on an up-to-date Local Development Plan (LDP) which has been subject to community engagement and is based on locally relevant evidence.

"This ensures that decisions are rational, consistent and fair and permits the Welsh language to be considered alongside other social, environmental and economic issues to achieve the best overall outcome for communities across Wales."

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