Modernising and simplifying the processes behind developing infrastructure projects in Wales is at the heart of a new bill laid before the Senedd today (Monday, June 12).
Climate Change Minister Julie James described the new Infrastructure (Wales) Bill as an ‘important step’ towards delivering on renewable energy targets as Wales moves towards net zero by 2050.
The Minister said: “This Bill introduces a modern and simplified regime for the consenting of significant infrastructure projects in Wales, both on the land and in the sea.
“Having an efficient and effective consenting regime is vital to the timely delivery of important infrastructure projects in Wales that make a positive contribution towards our social, economic and environmental prosperity and net zero ambitions.
“As well as helping improve the competitiveness of Wales and position us as an attractive place for investment and jobs, it will offer our local communities the opportunity to engage in an open and transparent consenting process to help shape developments which affect them.”
The proposals in the Bill support multiple commitments in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government including ‘building a stronger greener economy’ and ’embedding the response to the climate and nature emergency in everything we do’.
The Minister continued: “The need for this Bill has arisen as a result of the Wales Act 2017, which devolved further powers to Wales for the consenting of energy generating projects, overhead electric lines, ports and harbours and other infrastructure works.
“As a consequence of the way these powers were devolved, we have been placed into older and outdated consenting processes by the UK Government which are not fit for purpose.
“This has put us at a disadvantage compared to other countries in the United Kingdom.
“To address these issues, the Bill introduces a new unified consenting process, which will apply both on the land and in the sea.
“It will include nationally significant projects where the Welsh Ministers currently have responsibility for consenting, such as onshore and offshore energy generating stations, overhead electric lines associated with devolved generating stations, as well as works to highways and railways.
“By replacing multiple consenting processes with a single process, we will help attract the essential investment we need, particularly in the renewable energy sector.”
The Bill has been developed with several key aims in mind.
It will ensure a streamlined and unified process that will help developers access a ‘one-stop-shop’ for permissions, consents, licences and other requirements currently issued under different consenting regimes.
It will also offer a transparent, thorough and consistent process, which will allow local communities to better understand and effectively engage in decisions which affect them.
It will see new consenting processes able to meet future challenges in a timely manner by being sufficiently flexible to capture new and developing technologies, as well as any further consenting powers which may be devolved to Wales.
The Minister added: “The delivery of such ambitious aims requires input and collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, interested parties and local communities.
This is why the principles the Bill seeks to legislate for have been subject to full public consultation and developed with ongoing engagement and communications with key stakeholders.
“This has allowed us to gauge the appetite for a new consenting process in Wales and provide an opportunity for stakeholders, including the wider public, to help shape the process to the benefit of everyone involved.
“I believe this Bill will deliver a consenting process for significant infrastructure projects which Wales deserves.”