James Evans MS has voted against the Welsh Government’s infrastructure bill after a debate in the Senedd on Tuesday .

 Mr Evans says the intention of the bill is to streamline processes for developments of national significance, such as the proposed wind farms and distribution lines that would cut right through the heart of mid-Wales, adding he was concerned that the fast tracking of such schemes will not allow for local concerns and views to be taken into full consideration. It is vitally important that the communities’ views are heard and respected.

“Whilst the intention to achieve net zero is laudable, it cannot be at the expense of local people, communities, our livelihoods, and jobs.

 “Welsh Government Ministers will have the final say on whether such proposals go ahead, and I will do all I can in the Senedd to give voice to local communities and hold the Welsh Labour Government to account,” said Mr Evans

The new legislation which was passed on Tuesday, despite opposition is aimed at modernising and simplifying the process behind developing significant infrastructure projects in Wales.

The Infrastructure (Wales) Bill, which was introduced to the Senedd in June 2023, to bring about major changes to the legislative framework and will speed up the consenting process on both land and in the territorial sea.

The new form of consent will be known as ‘Infrastructure Consent’ and will be issued in relation to Significant Infrastructure Projects, including energy, transport, waste and water, among other infrastructure types.

This unified consenting process will create more consistency and certainty in Wales’s ability to deliver, develop and attract further infrastructure investment.

Addressing the Senedd on Tuesday, the Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Local Government and Planning, Julie James, said: “Having an effective and efficient consenting process is vital to deliver significant infrastructure projects in Wales which make a positive contribution towards our social, economic and environmental prosperity and net zero ambitions.

“Not only will it improve the competitiveness of Wales as an attractive place for investment and jobs, it will also empower local communities and other key stakeholders by providing robust opportunities to engage in an open and transparent process to help shape developments which affect them.”

The Bill will also play a key role in delivering the Welsh Government’s renewable energy targets as we move towards ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, enabling the consenting of renewable energy projects in a robust, but timely manner.

To ensure the smooth implementation of the new legislation, two consultation papers will issue later in the spring.

The first consultation paper will focus on the pre-application consultation procedure and will be a call for evidence to stakeholders, local communities and other interested parties to seek ideas and suggestions for how pre-application consultation should be conducted.

The second consultation paper will focus on fees for the consenting process.

Local communities and other key stakeholders are encouraged to engage with the consultations to help shape developments which affect them.

The Cabinet Secretary continued: “I am committed to working closely with stakeholders during the development of the subordinate legislation to help ensure the infrastructure consenting process operates effectively, efficiently and with maximum engagement.”

Commenting after the vote Janet Finch-Saunders MS, Shadow Climate Change Minister, said: “Tonight, Labour and Plaid voted for a bill that is in complete conflict with the core aims to deliver a streamlined and unified process for large scale infrastructure projects.

 “Whilst they have chosen to use the Bill to champion toll road charging, they have completely overlooked countless levels of detail needed to deliver the best and most efficient planning process.

 “Because Welsh Government hasn’t consulted adequately, key information such as about consultation and publicity, timeframes, open-floor hearings, the examination procedure, fees and much more have been left to future laws.

 “Welsh Conservatives will always work to support the people and economy of Wales, so we have opposed this legislation today.”