New Publication: Low Carbon Energy in Wales

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

This Research Briefing (PDF, 1.66MB) is the first in a series of policy briefings on low carbon energy in Wales. It introduces the national and global context for low carbon energy in relation to the energy trilemma, and outlines the policy landscape in Europe, the UK and Wales. Subsequent briefings will provide a summary of low carbon energy statistics in Wales and the role of low carbon energy in electricity, heat and transport.

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How should the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales work?

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

On 15 March the Assembly will debate the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee’s report on the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICfW).  The Committee found much to agree with when scrutinising the Welsh Government’s proposals, but made 10 recommendations to help ensure that Wales’s current and future infrastructure needs are met.

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The National Development Framework for Wales: what is it and when is it due?

24 February 2017

Article by Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Photograph of the Britannia Bridge across the Menai strait

The approach to strategic land use planning in Wales is changing. The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 introduces two new levels of development plan, which will sit above the existing local development plans (LDPs):

  • A National Development Framework (NDF) covering the whole of Wales. The NDF will set out the Welsh Government’s policies on development and land use in a spatial context, and replace the Wales Spatial Plan; and
  • Strategic Development Plans (SDPs) – these are regional plans that will sit between the NDF and LDPs in certain parts of Wales, and will deal with issues that cut across a number of local planning authority areas (but are not of national significance).

This post focuses on the NDF; further reading on SDPs and LDPs can be found in our local planning policy briefing (PDF 1MB) and in the Welsh Government’s Development Plan Prospectus.

The National Development Framework

The NDF will set out a 20 year land use framework and be reviewed at least every five years. Unlike the Wales Spatial Plan, the NDF will have development plan status, meaning that all SDPs and LDPs must be in conformity with it. The Welsh Government summarises the purpose of the NDF as follows;

  • sets out where nationally important growth and infrastructure is needed and how the planning system can deliver it;
  • provides direction for SDPs and LDPs;
  • supports the determination of applications under the Developments of National Significance (DNS) regime. Further reading on DNS can be found in our DNS briefing (PDF 498KB);
  • sits alongside Planning Policy Wales, which sets out the Welsh Government’s national planning policies and will continue to provide the context for land use planning; and
  • supports national economic, transport, environmental, housing, energy and cultural strategies and ensure they can be delivered through the planning system.

The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 requires the draft NDF to be considered by the National Assembly before the final NDF is published.

The Assembly will have 60 days (excluding recess) to consider the draft NDF. The Welsh Government must take account of any resolution or recommendations made by the Assembly, or any of its committees, in deciding whether or not the draft NDF should be amended.

The Welsh Government must publish a statement alongside the final NDF outlining how it has had regard to the Assembly’s resolutions or recommendations.

The current timetable (below) shows the draft NDF being considered by the Assembly in October – December 2019. The final NDF is due to be published in March 2020.

Call for evidence and projects

The Welsh Government is currently undertaking a call for evidence and projects (7 December 2016 to 7 March 2017) to help inform the development of the NDF.

The consultation is asking for national level evidence and projects that will help Wales meet its various national objectives. It gives the following as examples that could be relevant to the NDF:

  • all-Wales studies looking at the potential for renewable energy generation, connectivity issues between different parts of Wales, environmental issues covering multiple regions; and
  • issues which relate to a geographically smaller area but which are of national significance, such as power stations or nationally important habitats.

Evidence and projects submitted will be considered in the context of the development planning system and against the seven Well-being goals, as set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The consultation document says the Welsh Government will publish details of the evidence and projects that are submitted, and also publish a summary of its assessment of them. However, no timescale is given for when this is intended to be done.

Statement of Public Participation

The Planning (Wales) Act 2015 requires the Welsh Government to publish a Statement of Public Participation setting out how it will consult with the public during the development of the NDF. This document was published in November 2016 following consultation in early 2016.

The Statement of Public Participation shows there will be two further 12 week stages of public consultation, prior to the draft NDF being considered by the Assembly.

The full NDF timetable is as follows:

ndf-table

A change of direction of the Welsh Government’s youth concessionary bus travel scheme?

13 February 2017

Article by Andrew Minnis, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

flikr_micolo_j

Image from Flickr by Micolo J. Licensed under Creative Commons

Media reports have suggested that the Welsh Government’s mytravelpass scheme, which offers discounts on Welsh bus travel for 18-16 year olds, is soon to be withdrawn. However, recent statements from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure indicate that it may not have reached the end of the road just yet.

This blog post explains the background to the scheme and how it operates, along with an update on the most recent statements from the Cabinet Secretary.

Why was the scheme introduced?

In autumn 2014 the Welsh Government reached an agreement with the Liberal Democrats in the Assembly to support the Government’s draft budget. One aspect of the agreement was the introduction of a youth concessionary fares scheme.

Mytravelpass was subsequently launched in September 2015 on an 18 month pilot basis with funding of £15m.

The current pilot ends on 31 March 2017.

How does the scheme currently work?

Mytravelpass offers young people at least a one third discount on equivalent adult bus fares, although some operators may offer additional discounts. This includes local bus services which operate wholly in Wales or where the trip originates or terminates in Wales. The TrawsCymru long distance bus service is also included.

To be eligible for the pass, applicants must:

  • be aged 16 to 18 inclusive; and
  • have their primary residence in Wales (including those studying in Wales, provided they reside here).

The application process is handled by Traveline Cymru, the public transport information service funded by the Welsh Government. Users are issued with a photographic mytravelpass card which they must show when buying their ticket.

Details of how to apply are available on the mytravelpass website. Applications can be made online, by post or over the phone. During the pilot phase, the pass has been provided at no cost to the user, although applicants must provide a passport-sized photo to be included for ID purposes.  No proof of age or address is required with the application, but the details may be verified by third parties on behalf of the Welsh Government.

The mytravelpass website includes frequently asked questions with further information.

So what’s happening to the scheme now?

Uptake of the pass has been low. Despite a total market estimated at about 110,000 young people, by mid-January 2017 the total number of passes issued since the scheme’s launch was around 8,300.

On 18 October 2016, during questions following his Plenary statement on the future of bus services in Wales, the Cabinet Secretary acknowledged the limited uptake of the scheme.  He said “every opportunity—and I think any opportunity—that we get to flag up the existence of the pass we should take”. He also highlighted the role of the bus sector itself in marketing “concessionary travel opportunities”.

Three months later in January 2017 media reports suggested the scheme was being withdrawn at the end of the pilot period.  Welsh Government sources were quoted saying that the decision was based on analysis indicating that pass holders were not using the pass to travel outside their local area.

However, responding to a question in Plenary on 24 January 2017 the Cabinet Secretary said work was underway on a “legacy scheme”:

I remain very keen that there should be a legacy scheme after the current mytravelpass ends on 31 March. My officials have had encouraging discussions with representatives of local authorities and with the confederation of bus operators. I’m optimistic that I will be able to confirm the details of the successor programme very soon.

….this was a pilot scheme, and therefore something that we can learn from. And we have learnt from it. The fact of the matter is that uptake was not as high as we would’ve wished, which is why I’m very keen for the successor programme to reach more young people across Wales. I believe it’s something in the region of 10,000 young people who took advantage of the mytravelpass scheme; I would wish to see that number grow far more with the scheme that will emerge, which I’m hoping to announce within the coming weeks.

Young people in Wales and bus operators alike will await the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement with interest.