Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith

Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

22/02/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Delyth Jewell
Huw Irranca-Davies
Jayne Bryant Dirprwyo ar ran Joyce Watson
Substitute for Joyce Watson
Jenny Rathbone
Joel James Dirprwyo ar ran Janet Finch-Saunders
Substitute for Janet Finch-Saunders
Llyr Gruffydd Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Sarah Murphy Dirprwyo ar ran Joyce Watson
Substitute for Joyce Watson

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adam Price Aelod dros Ddwyrain Caerfyrddin a Dinefwr
Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
Julie James Y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd
Minister for Climate Change
Neil Hemington Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Nicholas Webb Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Owen Struthers Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Lukas Evans Santos Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

Cynnwys

Contents

1. Cyflwyniadau, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau 1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest
2. Bil Seilwaith (Cymru) - Trafodion Cyfnod 2 2. Infrastructure (Wales) Bill - Stage 2 Proceedings
Grŵp 1: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Amrywiol (Gwelliannau 95, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114) Group 1: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Miscellaneous (Amendments 95, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114)
Grŵp 2: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Perchnogaeth leol ar brosiectau ynni (Gwelliannau 191, 195) Group 2: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Local ownership of energy projects (Amendments 191, 195)
Grŵp 3: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Ynni (Gwelliannau 192, 96, 37, 193, 194, 196, 139, 140) Group 3: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Energy (Amendments 192, 96, 37, 193, 194, 196, 139, 140)
Grŵp 4: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Trafnidiaeth (Gwelliannau 99, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43) Group 4: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Transport (Amendments 99, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43)
Grŵp 5: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Dŵr a Dŵr Gwastraff (Gwelliannau 44, 103, 45, 105, 107, 112) Group 5: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Water and Waste Water (Amendments 44, 103, 45, 105, 107, 112)
Grŵp 6: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Pŵer i ddiwygio (Gwelliannau 46, 113) Group 6: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Power to amend (Amendments 46, 113)
Grŵp 7: Rhan 2 – Gofyniad am gydsyniad Seilwaith (Gwelliannau 156, 157, 47, 48, 49, 158, 50, 51, 1) Group 7: Part 2 – Requirement for Infrastructure Consent (Amendments 156, 157, 47, 48, 49, 158, 50, 51, 1)
Grŵp 8: Rhan 3 – Gwneud cais am Gydsyniad Seilwaith: Cymorth i geisyddion (Gwelliannau 115, 2, 116, 3, 52, 53) Group 8: Part 3 – Applying for Infrastructure Consent: Assistance for applicants (Amendments 115, 2, 116, 3, 52, 53)
Grŵp 9: Rhan 3 – Gwneud cais am Gydsyniad Seilwaith: Y weithdrefn cyn gwneud cais – a29 (Gwelliannau 159, 4, 160, 161, 5, 117, 118, 119) Group 9: Part 3 – Applying for Infrastructure Consent: Pre-application procedure – s29 (Amendments 159, 4, 160, 161, 5, 117, 118, 119)
Grŵp 10: Rhan 3 – Gwneud cais am Gydsyniad Seilwaith: Y weithdrefn cyn gwneud cais – a30 (Gwelliannau 120, 6, 141, 142, 121, 122) Group 10: Part 3 – Applying for Infrastructure Consent: Pre-application procedure – s30 (Amendments 120, 6, 141, 142, 121, 122)
Grŵp 11: Rhan 3 – Gwneud cais am Gydsyniad Seilwaith: Y weithdrefn gwneud cais (Gwelliannau 197, 198, 54, 7, 162, 163, 164, 8, 123, 55, 9, 10, 143, 56, 144, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17) Group 11: Part 3 – Applying for Infrastructure Consent: Application procedure (Amendments 197, 198, 54, 7, 162, 163, 164, 8, 123, 55, 9, 10, 143, 56, 144, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)
Grŵp 12: Rhan 4 – Archwilio ceisiadau: Awdurdod archwilio - cyfansoddiad ac arbenigedd panel (Gwelliannau 124, 145) Group 12: Part 4 – Examining applications: Examining authority – panel constitution and expertise (Amendments 124, 145)
Grŵp 13: Rhan 4 – Archwilio ceisiadau: Dewis o ymchwiliad, gwrandawiad neu weithdrefn ysgrifenedig (Gwelliannau 146, 165, 125, 18, 57, 147, 148) Group 13: Part 4 – Examining applications: Choice of inquiry, hearing or written procedure (Amendments 146, 165, 125, 18, 57, 147, 148)
Grŵp 14: Rhan 4 – Archwilio ceisiadau: Cynnal ymchwiliad, gan gynnwys mynediad at dystiolaeth a chymorth i wrthwynebwyr (Gwelliannau 166, 126, 127, 167, 128, 149, 150, 151, 58, 59, 60) Group 14: Part 4 – Examining applications: Operation of inquiry, including access to evidence and assistance for objectors (Amendments 166, 126, 127, 167, 128, 149, 150, 151, 58, 59, 60)
Grŵp 15: Rhan 5 – Penderfynu ar geisiadau: Y swyddogaeth o benderfynu (Gwelliant 61) Group 15: Part 5 – Deciding applications: Function of deciding (Amendment 61)
Grŵp 16: Rhan 5 – Penderfynu ar geisiadau: Polisïau statudol (Gwelliannau 62, 129, 168, 130, 152, 169, 170) Group 16: Part 5 – Deciding applications: Statutory policies (Amendments 62, 129, 168, 130, 152, 169, 170)
Grŵp 17: Rhan 5 – Penderfynu ar geisiadau: Yr amserlen a’r penderfyniad (Gwelliannau 199, 63, 19, 20, 21, 22, 64) Group 17: Part 5 – Deciding applications: Timetable and decision (Amendments 199, 63, 19, 20, 21, 22, 64)
Grŵp 18: Rhan 6 – Gorchmynion Cydsyniad Seilwaith (Gwelliannau 65, 66, 131, 132, 133, 171, 23, 172, 24, 33, 34, 35, 36, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29) Group 18: Part 6 - Infrastructure Consent Orders (Amendments 65, 66, 131, 132, 133, 171, 23, 172, 24, 33, 34, 35, 36, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29)
Grŵp 19: Rhan 7 – Gorfodi (Gwelliannau 67, 173, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 134, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91) Group 19: Part 7 - Enforcement (Amendments 67, 173, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 134, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91)
Grŵp 20: Rhan 8 – Swyddogaethau atodol: Cyffredinol (Gwelliannau 174, 175, 92, 176, 93, 30, 31, 94, 154, 177) Group 20: Part 8 – Supplementary functions: General (Amendments 174, 175, 92, 176, 93, 30, 31, 94, 154, 177)
Grŵp 21: Rhan 8 – Swyddogaethau atodol: Buddion net i fioamrywiaeth (Gwelliant 153) Group 21: Part 8 – Supplementary functions: Biodiversity net gain (Amendment 153)
Grŵp 22: Rhan 9 – Darpariaethau cyffredinol: Cyffredinol (Gwelliannau 178, 179, 135, 136, 137, 138, 155, 180, 181, 182, 32, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190) Group 22: Part 9 – General provisions: General (Amendments 178, 179, 135, 136, 137, 138, 155, 180, 181, 182, 32, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190)
Grŵp 23: Rhan 9 – Darpariaethau cyffredinol: Trefniadau trosiannol (Gwelliant 183) Group 23: Part 9 – General provisions: Transitional arrangements (Amendment 183)
4. Papurau i'w nodi 4. Papers to note
5. Cynnig o dan Reolau Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gynhelir ar 6 Mawrth 5. Motion under Standing Orders 17.42(vi) and (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the 6 March meeting

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:31.

1. Cyflwyniadau, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest

Bore da i chi i gyd. Croeso i'r Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith yn Senedd Cymru. Rŷn ni'n symud yn syth at yr agenda y bore yma. Croeso i Aelodau, wrth gwrs, am fod yma. Mae hwn yn gyfarfod fyddai fel arfer yn cael ei gynnal ar ffurf hybrid, ond dwi'n meddwl bod pawb sydd angen bod yn bresennol gyda ni fan hyn yn yr ystafell. Heblaw am unrhyw addasiadau, felly, yn ymwneud â gweithredu ar ffurf hybrid, mae holl ofynion y Rheolau Sefydlog yn aros yn eu lle. Mae eitemau cyhoeddus y cyfarfod yma, wrth gwrs, yn cael eu darlledu'n fyw ar Senedd.tv, ac mi fydd yna gofnod yn cael ei gyhoeddi fel arfer, wrth gwrs. Mae'n gyfarfod dwyieithog, felly mae yna gyfieithu ar y pryd o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Cyn mynd ymhellach, a gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw un unrhyw fuddion i'w datgan? Jenny.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee at Senedd Cymru, the Welsh Parliament. We are moving straight to our agenda items this morning. Welcome, Members, and thank you for joining us this morning. This is a meeting that would usually be held in hybrid format, but I think that everyone who needs to present with us is present in the room. Aside from any adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of this meeting, of course, are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. It's a bilingual meeting, and so there is simultaneous translation available from Welsh to English. Before going any further, may I ask if any Members have declarations of interest to make? Jenny.

Yes. My partner is an adviser to Bute Energy, as is recorded on my declarations. I also want to draw Members' attention to the fact that, during the Stage 1 scrutiny of the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill, I was a shareholder in the Renewables Infrastructure Group Limited. Had I been aware at the time that it had invested in Garreg Lwyd windfarm in Powys, I would have declared that interest. Equally, during the Stage 1 scrutiny, I also had shares in JLEN Environmental Assets Group Limited, which I later found out had invested in five windfarms, at Castle Pill, Milford Haven, Ferndale in the Rhondda, Llynfi Afan, Abergwynfi, Moel Maelogan in Conwy, and Wear Point in Pembrokeshire. I would have declared this had I known this at the time. I no longer have any investment in either of these holding companies. I continue to hold shares in Siemens and Awel Aman Tawe, which are involved in power generation.

There we are. Okay. That's now on the record. Thank you, Jenny. Any further declarations of interest? Adam.

Wrth gyflwyno gwelliannau i'r Bil, dwi eisoes wedi nodi fy mod i'n byw yn nyffryn Tywi. Gall rhai o ddarpariaethau'r Bil a'r gwelliannau gael effaith ar ddyffryn Tywi, felly dwi wedi rhoi hwnna ar y record. 

In tabling amendments to the Bill, I have already noted that I live in the Towy valley. Some of the provisions of the Bill and the amendments could impact the area, so I want that to be placed on the record.

Dyna ni. Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mae yna ymddiheuriadau wedi cael eu derbyn, gyda llaw, gan Janet Finch-Saunders, ac rŷn ni'n croesawu Joel James, sydd yma ar ei rhan hi. Mae Joyce Watson hefyd wedi ymddiheuro, ac mae Jayne Bryant yn ymuno â ni y bore yma—croeso, Jayne—ac mi fydd Sarah Murphy yn dod y prynhawn yma. Fel rŷn ni eisoes wedi gweld, mae Adam Price hefyd yn ymuno â'r pwyllgor heddiw, gan fod ganddo fe welliannau penodol y byddwn ni'n eu trafod yng nghwrs y cyfarfod. 

There we go. Thank you very much. We have received apologies, by the way, from Janet Finch-Saunders, and we welcome Joel James, who is here instead. Joyce Watson has also apologised, and Jayne Bryant is present instead—welcome, Jayne—and Sarah Murphy will be attending this afternoon. We also have Adam Price joining the committee meeting today because he has specific amendments that we will be discussing during the committee meeting.

2. Bil Seilwaith (Cymru) - Trafodion Cyfnod 2
2. Infrastructure (Wales) Bill - Stage 2 Proceedings

Mae gwelliannau a nodir ag [R] yn dynodi bod yr Aelod wedi datgan buddiant cofrestradwy o dan Reol Sefydlog 2 neu fuddiant perthnasol o dan Reolau Sefydlog 13 neu 17 wrth gyflwyno’r gwelliant.

Amendments marked [R] mean that the Member has declared either a registrable interest Under Standing Order 2 or relevant interest under Standing Orders 13 or 17 when tabling the amendment.

We'll move, then, to the main substantive item on our agenda today, which, of course, is to undertake the Stage 2 proceedings of the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill. Can I welcome the Minister, Julie James, the Minister for Climate Change, to our meeting this morning? Joining her is the chief planner from the Welsh Government, Neil Hemington, the head of national consenting at the Welsh Government, Owen Struthers, and lawyer Nicholas Webb as well, also from the Welsh Government. Croeso i chi i gyd—a warm welcome to you all.

Grŵp 1: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Amrywiol (Gwelliannau 95, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114)
Group 1: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Miscellaneous (Amendments 95, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109, 110, 111, 114)

Right, so, the first group of amendments relates to significant infrastructure projects, and they are miscellaneous amendments. So, the lead amendment in this group is amendment 95, and I call on Joel James to move and speak to the lead amendment and the other amendments in this group. Joel. 

09:35

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 95 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 95 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all who have been involved in the development of this legislation so far. To be frank, I think there are major lessons for the Welsh Parliament and the Welsh Government to learn from this Bill, which I wish to briefly touch upon here. We have only known the groupings of the amendments since Monday, meaning that work on 199 amendments ahead of this committee meeting today has had to be undertaken within the last two working days. I do believe that, in future, consideration should be given to given to providing more time between the confirmation of groupings and committee meetings. It will result in better scrutiny. This would also have a positive impact on Commission staff. I'm aware that one official was working on the groupings until after 9pm on Sunday evening.

The second, broader point I wish to make is that the volume of amendments is a reflection of the fact that this Bill is substandard and premature. In addition to Janet's amendments, a considerable amount have been presented by the Minister, too. Why did the Minister not realise that these changes were needed before now?

In complete conflict with the core aims of the Bill to deliver a streamlined and unified process and empower communities to better understand and engage, the Bill has 35 instances where detailed provisions will be included in regulations. That is excessive and has been described by Bute Energy as one of the Bill's key failings. This is unsurprising when you consider that there are a total of 59 powers in the Bill for the Welsh Ministers to make regulations. I genuinely think that this Bill would be more likely to achieve its aim if all the sections requiring secondary legislation were put out to consultation and then the Bill amended based on the replies. Nonetheless, this ineffective approach is what the Welsh Government have decided to pursue, so the Welsh Conservatives have made a major effort to improve what you have presented by submitting 100 amendments. 

The first under consideration today is amendment 95. The purpose of this amendment is to clarify that 'significant' relates back to Part 1 of the Bill. If a project falls under one of the definitions set out in Part 1 of the Bill, it is defined as 'significant'. The purpose of this amendment is to provide clarity. Recommendations at Stage 1 included the difficulty in defining 'significant infrastructure projects'. 

Amendments 97 to 111 relate to a series of developments specified in Part 1 as significant infrastructure projects. What the amendments would achieve is to address an error Natural Resources Wales highlighted that, while marine areas are mentioned in specific fields, such as electricity infrastructure, they were omitted in others. I agree with NRW that marine areas should be referenced in all relevant areas.

Finally, amendment 114 relates to cross-border projects. The potential complexity of cross-border projects was highlighted by multiple stakeholders. NRW informed the committee that, to navigate these complexities successfully, all involved parties should be well informed about the requirements of the different regimes. RenewableUK Cymru also highlighted the challenges for future cross-border projects, where concurrent applications for the Welsh and English consent processes might be necessary. Our solution is to include an amendment that sets a requirement in law for the Welsh Ministers to consult with the United Kingdom Government to seek to agree an approach in respect of that cross-border project. Thank you.

Thank you, Joel. Right, do I have any other speakers who wish to contribute to this group? No. There we are. Okay, I'll ask the Minister to respond, then. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I welcome the opportunity to debate the amendments to the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill today, and I also would like to express my thanks to all the members of the committee for their scrutiny of the Bill, and particularly to those Members who have tabled amendments to the Bill. I also want, Chair, to place on record my assurance to Members that I have considered carefully each and every amendment tabled, and whilst it hasn't been possible to support all the amendments tabled, I think there are a number of opportunities where the intention behind the amendments can be reflected within the Bill, going forward. And I'm very happy to work with Members towards Stage 3 amendments that might be drafted so that the Bill is more coherent overall but actually takes the policy intent into account. So, I'm very happy to do that, and I'll indicate as we go through where we think that's the case.

I'm afraid I don't support amendment 95. Section 1(a) already states that

'development specified in this Part as a significant infrastructure project'.

Therefore, the amendment has no legal effect and would create confusion through duplication. So, I ask the committee to reject this amendment.

I'd also like to thank Janet Finch-Saunders—and Joel James today for presenting them—for tabling a number of amendments that insert the words 'Welsh marine area' to various sections of the Bill. I'm going to speak on amendments 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109, 110 and 111 all together. I can see the merits in including the words 'Welsh marine area' for certain developments, but I'm not certain it's required for all the development types proposed. So, I support amendment 97 and 98 on fracking and coal gasification, given the coalfields do extend beyond the land, into the sea, and we are aware of these developments and their national significance.

I also support amendments 108-111, which would place projects on waste water onto the face of the Bill, as we are all aware of the significance of waste water nationally.

I'm afraid I do not support amendments 100 or 101 on railways, 102 and 104 on dams, or 106 on transfer of water. I have concerns that inserting these words may create unintended consequences or are unlikely to happen in the sea. For example, a dam in the sea would be an unusual project in itself, but there are also drafting issues over what is a dam in the sea. Is it mud deposits? Is it a traditional dam? What exactly is it? So, I'm not saying that the project might not be significant, but they're better captured via direction-making powers, based on knowledge of the project and its effects, rather than the blanket insertion of the words.

And then, turning to 114, I do understand the intention of the amendment. Early engagement with our English counterparts will be essential to striking the right balance and ensuring co-operation between determining authorities, but we don't think it's necessary to place a requirement on the face of the Bill. So, just to give the committee an example, a project may have the majority of its development in Wales and a very small part in England. I would see that project as an SIP and it would go through the new process in Wales as the project has significant impact in Wales. In such circumstances, there'd be no need to consult on our approach as it would be completely clear. I understand the intent, but it's about good practice between consenting bodies, rather than a matter for legislation. We believe it's better developed in that way.

And therefore—I hope I'm going to get this right—I call on the committee to support amendments 97, 98, 101, 102, 104, 108, 109, 110, 111, and to reject amendments 95, 100, 106 and 114. Diolch, Cadeirydd.

09:40

Thank you, Minister. Thank you. There we are. I call on Joel, then, to reply to that.

Thank you, Chair. I'm grateful for the Welsh Government's support on the amendments that the Minister outlined. Nonetheless, we'd still like to proceed to a vote on the remaining ones.

There we are. Okay. Thank you for that. So, the question is that amendment 95 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There we are. Okay, we'll move to a vote, then. So, could I see all those in favour of amendment 95? Three. And against amendment 95? Three. There we are. No abstentions. That vote is tied, so I'm using my casting vote in the negative, that is against the amendment, in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii). So, the amendment is not agreed.

Gwelliant 95: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 95: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 2: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Perchnogaeth leol ar brosiectau ynni (Gwelliannau 191, 195)
Group 2: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Local ownership of energy projects (Amendments 191, 195)

We move on to the second group of amendments, which relates to significant infrastructure projects: local ownership of energy projects. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 191.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 191 (Adam Price [R]).

Amendment 191 (Adam Price [R]) moved.

I move amendment 191 in the name of Adam Price, and I call on Adam Price to speak to his amendment and any other amendments in this group.

Rwy'n ddiolchgar, Cadeirydd, a diolch am y cyfle i fod yn cynnig y gwelliannau hyn y bore yma. Mae gwelliant 191 a 195 gyda'i gilydd yn golygu, pe baen nhw'n cael eu pasio ac yn cael eu derbyn, y byddai’r gorsafoedd cynhyrchu trydan, fel sy'n cael eu diffinio o dan y Bil, ond yn brosiectau seilwaith arwyddocaol pe baen nhw'n bodloni gofynion perchnogaeth leol, ac mae yna ddarpariaeth yn y gwelliant hefyd sydd yn galluogi'r Llywodraeth i osod mas ar hyn o bryd mewn rheoliadau beth fyddai diffiniad 'gofynion perchnogaeth leol'. Mater i'w drafod, efallai, ymhellach fyddai hynny—hynny yw, y balans rhwng gosod pethau ar wyneb y Bil a rheoliadau yn gyffredinol.

Y cefndir polisi i hyn ydy polisi presennol y Llywodraeth, sydd, ers 2020, wedi dweud y dylai pob prosiect, yn ddieithriad, sydd yn cynhyrchu trydan fod ag elfen o berchnogaeth leol. Felly, dyna yw'r polisi ar hyn o bryd, ond does yna ddim grym statudol, mandadol, cyfreithiol i'r polisi ar hyn o bryd. Efallai bydd y Gweinidog â gwybodaeth ynglŷn â data, hynny yw, ble rydyn ni o ran canrannau sydd yn cwrdd â'r nod o 100 y cant yma mae'r Llywodraeth wedi'i gosod. Ond rwy'n credu bod digon o brofiad gennym ni fel Aelodau o blith ein gilydd, siŵr o fod, yn ein hetholaethau, i ddangos o ran prosiectau ynni gwynt, solar ac yn y blaen rŷn ni'n ymwybodol ohonyn nhw, sydd yn yr arfaeth neu sydd ar y gweill, nad ydy nod y polisi o gyrraedd 100 y cant yn sicr ddim yn cael ei gyrraedd ar hyn o bryd. Sgil effaith hynny ydy bod yna ymdeimlad cynyddol, ymhlith rhai cymunedau yn sicr, fod hanes Cymru yn ail-ddweud ei hunain. Rwy'n cyfeirio fanna at ofidiau byd-eang, a dweud y gwir, rŷn ni'n eu gweld ar hyn o bryd o ran economi echdynnu—extractive economy—lle mae'r elw yn gadael ond mae'r gost yn lleol. Mae hwn, wrth gwrs, yn adleisio hanes Cymru o ran ein hanes ni gyda mwyngloddio glo a llawer o fwynau eraill: buddiannau corfforaethol yn elwa a dim budd economaidd lleol yn llifo o hynny.

I'm grateful, Chair, and I thank you for the opportunity to move these amendments this morning. Amendment 191 and 195 together would mean, if they were accepted by the committee, that electricity generation stations, as defined under the Bill, would only be major infrastructure projects if they met the requirements of local ownership, and there is provision in the amendment that would enable the Government to set out currently in regulation what the definition of 'local ownership requirements' would be. That's a matter for further discussion, perhaps, in terms of the balance between what's on the face of the Bill and what's in regulations more generally.

The policy background to this is the current Government policy, which, since 2020, has stated that every project, without exception, that produces electricity should have an element of local ownership. So, that is the policy at present, but there is no statutory, mandatory, legal force to that policy at the moment. Perhaps the Minister will have some information on data, in terms of where we are in terms of the percentages that meet that policy aim of 100 per cent, set by Government. But I do believe that we as Members have enough experience in our own constituencies and regions to demonstrate in terms of solar and wind energy projects that we're aware of, which are in the pipeline or are already moving forward, that the policy aim of reaching 100 per cent certainly isn't being achieved at the moment. The impact of that is that there is a growing feeling amongst some communities, certainly, that the history of Wales is repeating itself. I'm referring there to global concerns that we're seeing developing now in terms of extractive economies, where the profits are extracted but the costs are borne locally. This of course reflects the history of Wales in terms of our history with mining coal and other minerals: it's the corporate bodies that benefit, with no local benefits.

A hefyd mae yna elfen o ran democratiaeth ac atebolrwydd sydd yn berthnasol iawn i'r Bil yma, onid yw, o ran y system gynllunio ac yn y blaen, oherwydd mae yna ymdeimlad o—rwy'n mynd i drio bathu'r term Cymraeg—'ymyl-oleiddio'. Mae'n air hyll am broses fwy hyll fyth: peripheralisation, y teimlad bod penderfyniadau yn cael eu gosod ar gymunedau heb fod eu llais nhw'n cael ei glywed, ac mae yna drafodaeth byw ynglŷn â hyn yng nghyd-destun net zero a'r angen am just transition sy'n cynnwys cymunedau. Felly, dyna'r cefndir, a bwriad polisi y gwelliannau hyn, yn syml iawn, ydy ceisio lliniaru y ddwy ffenomenon hynny trwy ar y naill law mynnu quid pro quo, mewn ffordd. Hynny yw, os ydych chi fel prosiect, fel datblygwr, yn meddu ar y statws yma o brosiect seilwaith arwyddocaol ac felly yn mwynhau'r manteision hynny o ran sicrhau proses cyflymach, mwy chwim, mwy di-drafferth, yna mae'n rhaid wedyn fod yna quid pro quo o ran perchnogaeth lleol, a bod y prosiectau generadu trydan hynny yn delifro elfen o'r elw yn aros yn lleol, a hefyd, ochr yn ochr, mater i'w fanylu yn ei gylch yn y rheoliadau sydd yn diffinio perchnogaeth leol, ond mae Community Energy England, wrth gwrs, sydd yn ymgyrchu am isafswm mandadol o ran perchnogaeth leol ar gyfer prosiectau ynni, maen nhw hefyd yn awgrymu dylai fod y berchnogaeth honno â hawliau pleidleisio—felly, nid yn unig bod cyfran o'r elw yn aros yn lleol, ond hefyd bod yna commitment i sicrhau bod y llais lleol hwnnw yn cael ei ddelifro drwy hawliau i bleidleisio yn gysylltiedig gydag unrhyw berchnogaeth leol.

Mae cwmnïau mawr yn y sector yn gwrthwynebu'r awgrymiadau hyn. Dyw hynny ddim yn syndod. Mae’r sector ynni cymunedol yn eu cefnogi nhw—unwaith eto ddim yn syndod, a dweud y gwir. Y prif ddadl mae'r cwmnïau corfforaethol mawr yn ei defnyddio yw byddai hwn yn arafu'r broses o ddatgarboneiddio, ac mae'n rhaid rhoi ystyriaeth ddwys i hynny, onid oes, ond mae'r dystiolaeth yn awgrymu fel arall, wrth gwrs. Mae yna dystiolaeth eang, ers blynyddoedd nawr, fod sicrhau elfen o berchnogaeth leol yn cynyddu cefnogaeth a derbyniad lleol i brosiectau ynni adnewyddadwy, gan leihau gwrthwynebiad ac felly yn cyflymu'r broses o ddatgarboneiddio. Felly, mae sicrhau berchnogaeth leol, a dweud y gwir, yn cael yr effaith i'r gwrthwyneb. Mae o'n cyflymu'r broses o ddatgarboneiddio, ac mae yna enghreifftiau o lefydd eraill sydd wedi gwneud yr union beth dŷn ni'n ei awgrymu yn y gwelliannau hyn.

Mae Denmarc, un o'r arloeswyr byd-eang gydag ynni adnewyddadwy, yn arbennig gydag ynni gwynt, ers pasio Deddf ynni adnewyddadwy 2009, wedi bod â gofyniad statudol ar bob prosiect ynni gwynt i gynnig o leiaf 20 y cant o bob prosiect i berchnogaeth leol, a hynny heb liniaru o gwbl ar lwyddiant Denmarc yn y maes yma—maen nhw wedi arwain y byd, onid ydyn nhw? Mae'r dynesiad yma wedi llwyddo yn Nenmarc, ac mae wedi cael ei efelychu mewn llefydd eraill hefyd. Felly, yng ngwlad Belg, mae nifer o ranbarthau yng ngwlad Belg wedi deddfu ar hyd yr un llinellau ac wedi awgrymu elfen arall, gan gynnwys gofyniad i gynnig peth o'r berchnogaeth leol i awdurdodau lleol o fewn ardal y datblygiad. 

Mae'n berthnasol i nodi hefyd y crëwyd yr hawl i Weinidogion San Steffan fynnu hawl i berchnogaeth leol yng nghyd-destun prosiectau ynni adnewyddadwy drwy Ddeddf Seilwaith 2015, os nad oes anogaeth gwirfoddol ar y sector ynni i leoleiddio yn gweithio. Ond, fel yng Nghymru, buaswn i'n dadlau, dyw'r dynesiad gwirfoddol hwnnw ddim wedi gweithio. Ond, serch hynny, hyd yma, dyw'r Gweinidogion yn San Steffan ddim wedi defnyddio'r hawl yna sydd ganddyn nhw i greu rheoliadau i wneud yr hyn dŷn ni'n ceisio'i weithredu yn y gwelliannau yma. 

Jest i gloi, felly, trwy gyflwyno elfen o berchnogaeth leol, byddai gwneud hyn yn norm yn hytrach nag yn eithriad a fyddai'n medru cyflymu cyflawni nod polisi y Llywodraeth. A chyda hynny o eiriau o gyflwyniad, Cadeirydd, rwy'n credu y gwnaf i ei adael e yn fanna a gadael i Aelodau eraill gyfrannu ac i'r Gweinidog ymateb. 

And there's also an issue of democracy and accountability that is very relevant to this Bill too in terms of the planning system and so on, because there is a feeling—and I will try and come up with a Welsh term—of peripheralisation. It's an ugly word for an even uglier process: peripheralisation, that feeling that decisions are imposed on communities without their voices being heard, and there is a live discussion on this in the context of net zero and the need for a just transition and the inclusion of communities in that. So, that's the background, and the policy intention of these amendments, quite simply, is to seek to mitigate those two phenomenons, by on the one hand insisting on a quid pro quo, if you like. If, as a project or a developer, you have this status of a significant infrastructure project and would enjoy the benefits of that in terms of ensuring a swifter, accelerated process, then we also have to have that quid pro quo in terms of local ownership, and that those electricity generation projects do deliver an element of the profits remaining locally, and also, alongside that, and we would need to look at the details of this in the regulations that define local ownership, but Community Energy England, of course, who are campaigning for a mandatory minimum in terms of local ownership for energy projects, they too suggest that that ownership should come with voting rights—so, not only that a percentage of the profits would remain locally, but that there is also a commitment to ensure that that local voice is heard by providing voting rights in relation to any local ownership.

Large companies in the sector oppose these amendments. That's no surprise. The community energy sector, however, supports the amendments—and that's no surprise either, to be honest. The main argument that the major corporations use is that this would slow down the process of decarbonisation, and of course we need to give real consideration to that, but the evidence suggests otherwise, of course. There is broad-ranging evidence, over a period of years now, that ensuring an element of local ownership does increase support locally for renewable energy projects, reducing opposition, and therefore accelerates that decarbonisation process. So, ensuring local ownership does have a contrary impact. It actually accelerates decarbonisation, and there are examples from elsewhere where exactly what we suggest in the amendments has been done.

Denmark, one of the global innovators in renewable energy, particularly wind energy, since the passing of the renewable energy Act of 2009, has had a statutory requirement for all wind energy projects to provide at least 20 per cent of every project for local ownership, and that without having any influence on Denmark's success in this area—they are world leaders. And this approach has succeeded in Denmark and has been emulated elsewhere too. So, in Belgium, there are a number of regions of Belgium that have legislated along the same lines and have suggested another element, including a requirement to provide some of the local ownership to local authorities within the area of a development. 

It's also relevant to note that the right for Westminster Ministers to insist on local ownership in the context of renewable energy projects was provided through the Infrastructure Act 2015, unless the voluntary approach to the energy sector localising the issues was successful. But that voluntary approach hasn't worked, I would argue. However, the Ministers in Westminster have not used the powers that they do have to create regulations to do what we are seeking to achieve through these amendments. 

Just to conclude, therefore, in introducing an element of local ownership, this would normalise the process rather than making it an exception, and it could accelerate the delivery of the Government's policy objectives. And, with those words of introduction, Chair, I think I'll leave it there and allow other Members to contribute and for the Minister to respond.

09:50

Dyna ni, diolch yn fawr. Reit, mae yna nifer eisiau siarad i hwn. Mi wnaf gychwyn gyda Huw. 

Thank you very much. A number want to contribute. I'll start with Huw. 

I'm intrigued. I'm not totally persuaded, but I am intrigued. And if I can just say a word; I didn't intervene on the previous section, but it is pertinent that, having numbers of amendments like this coming forward, when we discussed the previous grouping, I don't think is a bad thing, because that actually inspires the debate that we do have. And whether it's 20 or 100 or 200 amendments, if they're worthy amendments, they're worth discussion. I genuinely am intrigued. I understand better now. I was trying to fathom what these amendments were seeking to do; now I understand. And I think they need, probably, in my mind—. I need to time to reflect on them, certainly, without a doubt. But I see what you're trying to do, and, certainly, the history of my area, with onshore windfarm developments—and we have many of them—has gone from 20 years ago, where there was no community engagement and involvement whatsoever, progressively to shift to the community pay-off, if you like, and now to community shares, community engagement and so on. But we're still a long way from that nirvana of actually having bolted down, by default, that communities will be part and parcel of big or small onshore windfarm developments. 

For my community, much of it now is history, in a sense, until we come to the renegotiation of those. And there's an interesting thing to look at—at that point, what do we then do? But I am intrigued with what you're saying. It definitely goes to the heart of this tension between what the Bill is, overall, trying to do—as the Minister has tried to explain to us when she's come in front of us before—which is to actually make sure that there is community engagement and wider stakeholder engagement, but there's also actually an understandable timeline. Now, what you were saying, Adam, I think, is that this would not knock this off the timeline of development of projects and hitting decarbonisation targets, that it could aid. But I'd like to hear more about that and how that could be done when you're also trying to say, then, to some of these big developers, who will inevitably be partners in some of the bigger ones I think—short of us having a nationalised wind energy company—. Then I can see there are things to pull out from here as to whether that could work or not. 

But I do get the intention of what you're trying to do and the start of a discussion here at this stage of the Bill. I think most of us on this committee would support what you've said about the idea of local ownership—not just local engagement, but local ownership—which is also within the Welsh Government's strategy as well to get there, and you're trying to put some rocket fuel underneath it to say, 'Well, we can do this within a piece of legislation.' And I think it's quite clever and ingenious, but I'm not sure I can support it today until I hear a little bit more, both from the Minister’s response, but also to, if not this, how we could do it, if you see what I mean. But I am intrigued. I think it's a great set of amendments to explore. So, that's my contribution for the moment. I think it's worthy of consideration, Minister, as to how we do this, whether this is of any help or not.

09:55

Dwi’n meddwl bod hyn yn syniad rili da. Byddai fe’n ymbweru cymunedau, byddai fe yn eglurhau polisi’r Llywodraeth. Efallai byddai fe’n tacluso’r sefyllfa, yn democrateiddio'r prosesau, a dwi'n cytuno 100 y cant gyda beth roedd Adam yn ei ddweud, a Huw hefyd, o ran—dwi'n gwybod doedd Huw ddim yn defnyddio’r gair yma, ond—yr hanes echdynnu o’n daearyddiaeth ni a fel dŷn ni ddim eisiau i'r hanes yna gael ei ailadrodd. Dŷn ni eisiau eto gwneud yn siŵr bod gan gymunedau nid yn unig yr opsiwn o gael llais, ond bod yr llais yna yn cael platfform sydd yna a'i fod e’n cael ei glywed. Achos os oes angen i bobl ffeindio cyfleoedd i ffeindio lle bydden nhw'n gallu cael platfform, dyw e jest ddim yn gweithio. Dyw bywyd ddim yn gweithio fel yna, yn sicr ddim ar gyfer cymunedau sydd yn wynebu cymaint o sialensau yn barod. Dwi ddim cofio sut roedd Adam wedi bathu'r gair am 'peripheralisation', ond let that run.

I think that this is a really good idea. It would empower communities, and it would explain and clarify the Government's policy. It might tidy up the situation and democratise the processes, and I agree 100 per cent with what Adam said, and Huw too in terms of—I know that Huw didn't use this word, but—the extractive history in terms of our geography and landscape and that we don't want that story to be repeated. We want to ensure that communities not just have the option of having a voice, but that that voice is heard and has a platform. Because if people need to seek opportunities to find out where they can access that platform, it just won't work. Life doesn't work like that, particularly for those communities that are facing so many challenges already. I don't remember exactly how Adam came to the term 'peripheralisation', but let that run.

Let's make that word happen.

So, dwi'n cytuno. Dwi'n cefnogi.

I would agree. I support.

Certainly, I completely agree with your policy objectives. It's not something that we've really discussed at Stage 1, because it's complicated. I was on the environment committee that, in 2015, went to have a look at what was going on in Germany, and there are absolutely thousands of community energy projects alive and well in small communities, and probably larger ones too, in Germany. And it would be really interesting to examine further as to why, culturally, we haven't grabbed onto this, because it's absolutely essential that we have community energy schemes to keep the benefit in our communities. That's the principle of a foundational economy.

But it's complicated, isn't it? Because there are thousands of companies out there trying to encourage people who are eligible for ECO4 to take up the opportunity of that UK initiative, but so many people are just nervous about it, they don't understand it, they think that it'll end up being more expensive than it's being presented. Huge issues around that, and I think local authorities have really been sitting this one out. How many solar panels are on my schools across Cardiff? Very, very few. And I think just local authorities have to pay way more attention to this as a way of tackling the cost-of-living crisis and helping people understand what the benefits of community energy ownership would be.

But I think there's a real tension here between the urgent need to switch away from fossil fuels now in order to avert the climate disaster that's staring us in the face, because it will take time for people to get the confidence to want to be involved in community energy schemes. Just listening to people who have battled away on their own on this—Awel Aman Tawe is a good example, but the Corwen hydro scheme is another—the amount of time that individuals have had to invest in trying to move forward on what is proving to be such a complicated area—. So, like Huw, I'm certainly interested in pursuing this as a policy issue, and really raising the game of all the organisations like Ynni Cymru and others who need to be thinking and doing stuff in this space, because you cannot expect Mr and Mrs who live next door to know about this renewable energy. This is a really innovative way of generating energy, and why should people know about it unless they happen to have done a physics degree? So, I'd be interested to hear what the Minister has to say, whether this is the right place for this or whether this is something that we need to pursue more urgently as a policy objective.

No, I'm afraid you can't. Is it on a point of clarification? Think about it. Joel next.

10:00

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to thank Adam Price for bringing the matter of ownership to the fore, but he has followed the pattern the Minister has pursued, leaving actual detail to regulations. The amendment provides no definition of 'minimum local ownership'. That omission means that the Bill would again fail to deliver a streamlined and unified process, and fail to empower communities to better understand and engage with the legislation. Additionally, the local ownership idea is only targeted at section 2, which is electricity infrastructure. Did the Member want to exclude all other sections in Part 1? Finally, the idea of local ownership is flawed when considering that these are significant infrastructure projects that usually require involvement by major stakeholders, who may not necessarily be Welsh but have a vital role to play in our nation's infrastructure. I'll be voting against amendments 191 and 195 today. Thank you.

Thank you, Joel. Huw is asking for a point of clarification from Adam, I think.

Indeed. It's just a point of clarification. I get amendment 195, which you predominantly spoke to, but it's actually picking up on Joel's point here. It seems to be partial in its application, to specific parts of the energy infrastructure. So my point of clarification is whether this is meant to be partial and only focused on them, or is it the broader issue of getting more community ownership. Because it doesn't seem to apply to the whole energy infrastructure that we're talking about within this Bill.

It is focused deliberately on electricity-generating projects. That's where the policy debate and focus around the question of local ownership is concentrated at this stage. But the principle, of course, could be applied in other areas. I'll respond to Joel's point, I think, in summing up, rather than here. Does that give you your answer? Okay. 

We can elaborate further later, if you wish. Minister.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I'll just start by saying—. I'm echoing back on myself, sorry—that's very disconcerting. I'll just start by saying I have a huge amount of sympathy with what Adam is trying to achieve here in policy terms, but there are two problems, I think. The first is that this is a process Bill, it isn't a policy Bill. It doesn't have policies in it; it's intended to apply a process to all of the policies that lead to infrastructure developments across Wales. So, whilst I have a huge amount of sympathy with the policy aims that Adam Price has just put forward, I think there are better ways to achieve what he's trying to do, and I'm more than happy to work with him on attempting to do that, whether in this Bill or elsewhere. I'm very happy to start from that point.

I will speak on the two amendments together, as they're both concerned with the local ownership requirements. Amendment 195 would provide that electricity-generating stations within section 2(1)(a)-(d) of the Bill would not be categorised as significant infrastructure projects unless they meet the requirements for local ownership. The definition of the local ownership, as Adam said, would be in the regulations, and amendment 191 is consequential as a result of that. I think the difficulty with the way that this is drafted—and Huw touched on it a little bit—is that that doesn't prevent the development from coming forward. It isn't a planning policy, so it doesn't mean the development can't happen; it just means it wouldn't be subject to the processes in this Bill.

The amendment doesn't affect the ability of the Welsh Ministers to call an application in, or to put a holding direction on it, or indeed to recover it or any of the other things that happen, so I don't think it has the effect that Adam would like it to have, which is to actually stop the progress of a large-scale energy project that didn't have local ownership. That, I think, is what you'd like. And actually, just to be really clear, that's what the Government would also like. But I don't think it's effective to do that. What would happen is that an energy project that did not have local ownership would stay with the local authority to determine. One of the problems that we have with local authorities is that they really struggle to do that with the big energy projects. The likelihood is that the Welsh Ministers would call it in because they'd be asked to do so by local residents and all of the people subject to transmission line discussions and so on. The transmission lines don't necessarily stay within the same local authority, for example—there's a whole range of issues with that. So, I understand entirely the intention, but I don't think it's effective in doing what we would like it to do.

There was a small debate, I know, about Adam trying to say that it's about electricity—and you have said that in the amendment—but I think there are some issues around the fact that this is all infrastructure projects. Although we talk a lot about energy infrastructure projects in the development of this Bill, they are of course intended for all infrastructure projects, and so there are large numbers of infrastructure projects where local ownership is not something you'd want to consider. I can think of several. There are some that you would. You might, with a flood management scheme, want to consider some local ownership, for example, but there are several that we can all think of where it wouldn't be at all appropriate. So, I think there are some issues there.

The complexity of some of these projects means that we've wanted very specifically to have a streamlined process that brings them in to the Welsh Ministers for determination, in order to have the expertise to be able to develop that, so that's very much the point of this whole process. I can't emphasise enough that this is not a policy Bill; this is a Bill that's meant to have longevity, because it sets out a process that applies to all policies into the future as far as we can see. So, if you change 'Planning Policy Wales' to reflect some of the things Adam has just said, and some of the ways that that's enforced, then that would be enforced, through this Bill, in that way. The process Bill itself, I don't think, is the right place for it at all.

There were a number of things that were said then around issues with local ownership and so on. I'll just point out that, of course, we do have a whole series of things going on in the policy domain that are not part of this Bill. For example, as part of the co-operation agreement, we have Ynni Cymru, which is very rapidly developing the kind of community energy that Jenny Rathbone spoke about in Germany. It's very much modelled on that. We've been working together as a group of parties to facilitate that across the piece. We've also, of course, very recently, made a state-owned energy company in this space, which would be very much looking to take share parts in large energy projects across Wales, for precisely the reason that Adam set out, because we don't want to be in a situation where the profits of this are exported away from Wales. I couldn't agree more with that sentiment.

Unfortunately, we don't think that what you're proposing here achieves what you're trying to do. I'm more than happy to continue that conversation with you, though, to see whether we can find a way of doing some of it in this Bill, but I think, more likely, we find a policy way of doing it that achieves the end, so that this Bill applies, then, to the process. So, as I said, I can't support the amendments, but I'm more than happy to work with the Member to see what we can achieve afterwards.

10:05

I'm very grateful to everyone who has responded, and to the Minister for those remarks. I'll try and go through them all in turn. I think 'intriguing' is a good word, and I think that, certainly, the intention in laying the amendments, at this stage, was to create a space for further discussion.

In response to Joel's point, yes, I think there is an argument to be had, in the context of the purpose of these amendments, as to what's the balance in terms of getting detail on the face of the Bill versus setting out more detail in regulations. Do you want to set out the minimum threshold, if that's the route that you want to go down, on the face of the Bill? There are further discussions and arguments on both sides in terms of the detail. I didn't think it was appropriate, at this stage, to set all of them out, because we could then end up having a discussion on the detail rather than on the principle.

In terms of the generality, everyone in Europe says that they want to have community ownership of energy, but there is definitely a policy divide between those jurisdictions that have gone down the voluntary route, with various ways of encouraging the sector and encouraging people to get involved, with variable degrees of success, it has to be said—Jenny, you're absolutely right—and those jurisdictions that I referred to in my opening remarks that have decided, actually, the only way that we can get the sector to move is to place a statutory duty on them.

I think it would be, certainly in the context of further discussions, useful to look at the 15 years of experience they've had in Denmark—successfully, despite protestations in Denmark, I'm sure. Denmark, of course, had a very, very large community-owned sector; in fact, the norm was community ownership in Denmark. But they started to see a shift towards the corporate sector coming in, and, as a result of that, they decided to create this minimum threshold. It hasn't prevented the continuing success of Denmark in terms of decarbonisation. So, there are practical examples there that we can look at—and not just in Denmark, but other people have looked at the Danish model and built upon it. Critically, I think, Jenny, you're right to point to the role of local authorities. The Belgian regions, for example, are aware that sometimes there's a situation where you're trying to grow the community sector, but also you're trying to encourage individual residents to take part in ownership schemes. Having local authorities there as a stakeholder is a very, very useful way of getting up to significant levels of local ownership, because they have the financial and other wherewithal to be able to engage in this kind of facility.

In Denmark, in terms of the practicalities, there has been a lot of debate: do you simply have a minimum threshold, and if you haven't got 15 per cent then you can't come in to this process, or do you have a commitment that they must offer a minimum level of ownership? Those are two different ways of meeting it. The reason that most of the examples that I refer to have gone down the second route is that it doesn't actually prevent any project from proceeding, as long as they're prepared to commit to offering that local ownership stake. One of the concerns that sometimes is raised is, 'Well, what if nobody actually buys a share? Does that mean that the project can't continue?' Well, if it's predicated on the idea of you must offer a minimum level of ownership, in a particular way, because one would want to avoid circumstances where you just sell 20 per cent to a wealthy local resident—. Well, that's not local ownership in the way that we would want it. So, you'd need to—and here, probably, some of these matters would need to be set out in regulation—make sure that it's an inclusive process, et cetera, that is truly reflective of local ownership. So, there's a bank of experience, there's a lot of discussion, about how you could use a statutory necessity for all renewable energy-generating projects to have this minimum ownership requirement, and I think that we can draw upon that.

In terms of the Minister's remarks, this explicitly, to avoid some of the problems in terms of the wider ambit of this infrastructure Bill, is very much focused on electricity-generating projects. There's a debate, maybe, to be had about other bits of infrastructure where local ownership could play a valuable role, but it's only focused there, it's only meant to have an effect there. It is within scope of the Bill, so it is relevant to the Bill, otherwise I wouldn't be here moving it. I would say that it is relevant to the policy intent of this Bill, which is about having a streamlined process, yes, but one that gets the balance right then in streamlining, but also ensuring community voice and community involvement and engagement for the communities that are included in this process. I think, based on very, very strong academic evidence, going back over many decades now, actually, having a local ownership clause in this increasingly difficult area helps with the policy purpose of the Bill, which is to have streamlined infrastructure, particularly in the context of these amendments for energy projects.

Nevertheless, I think it was drafted as a probing amendment. I think that the offer to explore other ways in the context of this Bill, that would be the preference. I have to say, we can have all the best policies in the world, but the sector, the corporate sector, will not move unless they are forced to move, and so we need to do something more than we're currently doing. Policy intent is not enough, and that's the purpose behind this Bill. 71

I take the Minister's point. What this would not prevent is that, if I'm a corporate developer and I don't want local ownership, I could then go through the existing local planning route. But those same corporate companies say, 'Oh, we can't get any projects through the local planning route; it takes years and years and years, even longer than the existing development of national significance streamlined process, which this is meant to improve upon.' And so, actually, practically, if you close off the SIP route, effectively you are in actual fact compelling those corporate developers to sit down and engage, and properly deliver a reasonable, some would say modest demand for local ownership. 72

So, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with other Members and with the Minister other ways, preferably in the context of this Bill, where we could move from the voluntary aspect of the current framework to something that actually will secure a compulsion on companies for everyone's interests to reflect local ownership. So, on that basis, I would be happy if you would withdraw the amendment on my behalf, if the committee was to consent to that. [Laughter.]

10:15

I would be happy to agree to that if the rest of the committee are happy to agree to that because, obviously, I have formally moved. So, are you content for us to not proceed to a vote? Diolch yn fawr. And I presume when we come to the other amendment in that group later on, you will advise us accordingly. Okay, diolch yn fawr. 

Tynnwyd gwelliant 191 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 191 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Grŵp 3: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Ynni (Gwelliannau 192, 96, 37, 193, 194, 196, 139, 140)
Group 3: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Energy (Amendments 192, 96, 37, 193, 194, 196, 139, 140)

So, we'll move on then to the third group, which is significant infrastructure projects: energy. Projects for energy, sorry, I should say. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 192, again in the name of Adam Price.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 192 (Adam Price [R]).

Amendment 192 (Adam Price [R]) moved.

So, I move amendment 192 in his name and call on him to speak to his amendment and any other amendments in this group.

Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Diben gwelliant 192, fel sy'n cael ei ddisgrifio yn y nodyn esboniadol, ydy sicrhau bod llinellau trydan o dan y ddaear yn cael eu trin yn gyfartal â llinellau uwchben y ddaear yng nghyd-destun y Bil. Hynny yw, bod modd iddyn nhw gael eu cyfrif mewn projectau seilwaith arwyddocaol. Efallai bod y pwyllgor eisoes yn ymwybodol bod yna sawl gwlad sydd yn tanddaearu pob llinell 132 kV—yr Iseldiroedd, rwy'n credu, a Denmarc. A dweud y gwir, mae yna rai gwledydd erbyn hyn, fel yr Almaen, sydd nawr yn dechrau gosod llinellau foltedd uwch o lawer—400 kV—o dan y ddaear.

Ac mae'r symudiad polisi yma tuag at danddaearu wedi esgor ar arloesedd sylweddol o fewn y maes yma o danddaearu llinellau trydan, sydd wedi golygu lleihad sylweddol yn y gost gymharol â llinellau uwchben y ddaear. Ac rwy'n ymwybodol, Gadeirydd, fod gennych chi eitem, dwi'n credu, ar yr agenda nes ymlaen rŷch chi wedi'i thrafod o'r blaen ynghylch aredig ceblau—cable ploughing—sydd yn ddull cymharol newydd o osod llinellau trydan dan ddaear, ond sydd â manteision ariannol ac amgylcheddol sylweddol o gymharu â dulliau traddodiadol o osod llinellau drwy adeiladu ffosydd. Mae gan Gymru gwmni sydd yn arbenigo yn y maes hwn, a dwi'n meddwl bod y Gweinidog wedi ymweld â nhw neu'n bwriadu ymweld â nhw, ac mae gennym ni hefyd gwmnïau yng Nghymru sydd yn gweithgynhyrchu ceblau trydanol i fynd dan ddaear, ac mae yna dipyn o arloesi wedi bod yn y prosesau hynny—gwella dibynadwyedd ac ôl-droed carbon llinellau trydan dan ddaear. 

Felly, bwriad syml y gwelliant yma a'r gwelliant cysylltiedig ydy adlewyrchu'r realiti cyfoes fod tanddaearu yn opsiwn cydradd o ran dosbarthu trydan ac y dylid adlewyrchu hynny, felly, yn y broses o ran SIP.

Thank you very much, Chair. The aim of amendment 192, as has been described in the explanatory note, is to ensure that underground electric lines are treated equally to those above-ground electric lines in the context of the Bill. That is, that they can be included among significant infrastructure projects. Perhaps the committee is already aware that there are several nations that place all electric lines of 132 kV underground—the Netherlands, I believe, and Denmark. And truth be told, there are other nations, such as Germany, that are starting to place far higher voltage lines—400 kV—underground.

And this policy shift towards placing electricity lines underground has led to a great deal of innovation within this field of placing electricity lines underground, which has led to a significant decrease in the comparative cost, as compared to above-ground electric lines. And I'm aware, Chair, that you have an item on the agenda later on that you've discussed already with regard to cable ploughing, which is a relatively new method of undergrounding, but that has significant financial and environmental benefits as compared to traditional methods of undergrounding through the construction of ditches. Wales has a company that specialises in this field, and I believe that the Minister has visited that company already, or intends to do so. We also have companies in Wales that manufacture cables to be undergrounded, and there has been a great deal of innovation in those processes too, with regard to improving the reliability and carbon footprint of underground electricity lines. 

So, the simple intention of this amendment and the related amendment is to reflect the contemporary reality, namely that undergrounding is an equal option in terms of electricity distribution, and that should be reflected, therefore, in the process in terms of SIP.

Jest i gyfeirio at rai o'r gwelliannau eraill, dwi'n credu bod gwelliant 96 yn enw Janet Finch-Saunders—os dwi'n ei ddarllen e'n iawn—yn ceisio cyflawni'r un nod, ond mewn ffordd arall. Os ydy'r Gweinidog yn derbyn y diben, efallai y cawn ni glywed hefyd pa ffordd ydy'r ffordd orau o ymgorffori hynny yn y Bil.

Bydd gwelliant 37 yn golygu y gall unrhyw linell trydan o unrhyw gilometredd gael ei chynnwys o dan y cymal hwn cyn belled ag y bod y llinellau trydan o dan 132 kV. Mae yna ddadl, o bosibl, o blaid cynnwys llinellau 66, 33 ac 11 kV o ran bod mor gynhwysfawr ag sy'n bosibl, ond y mae tu hwnt i fy ymwybyddiaeth dechnegol i roi cyngor i chi fel pwyllgor. O ran llinellau trydan uwch na 132 kV, sef 275 a 400 kV, mae'r pwerau dros y rheini ar hyn o bryd, fel dwi'n ei deall hi, yn gadwedig, ond byddwn i'n croesawu, fy hunan, cefnogaeth y grŵp Ceidwadol a'r Llywodraeth i drosglwyddo'r pwerau hyn. Ond a ydy'r cymal yma mewn perygl o osod y Bil mewn trafferthion o ran cymhwysedd? Efallai y cawn ni glywed mwy am hynny yn y man. 

O ran y gwelliannau eraill yn y grŵp yma, o'm rhan i, mae yna welliant sydd yn gosod rhyw fath o broses er mwyn diffinio beth yw hyfywedd y project; hynny yw, mae e'n dweud na all project o linellau uwchben y ddaear gael ei ddynodi yn broject o seilwaith arwyddocaol oni bai bod yr opsiwn o danddaearu yn cael ei gau i ffwrdd, fel petai, oherwydd na fyddai'r project cysylltiedig, y project generadu trydan cysylltiedig, yn hyfyw yn economaidd. Y cefndir polisi i hyn ydy'r hyn mae 'Polisi Cynllunio Cymru' yn dweud ar hyn o bryd, a dwi'n dyfynnu yn fan hyn,

'Y safbwynt a ffefrir gan Lywodraeth Cymru ar linellau pŵer newydd yw y dylid eu gosod o dan ddaear lle bo’n bosibl. Fodd bynnag, cydnabyddir bod angen cymryd safbwynt cytbwys o ran costau, a allai olygu bod prosiectau a fyddai’n dderbyniol fel arall, yn anhyfyw.'

Felly, mae'r gwelliant ar un wedd yn ceisio cymryd y polisi yma sydd yn cymryd tanddaearu fel y norm, ac eithrio sefyllfaoedd lle byddai hynny yn gwneud projectau yn anhyfyw, ac ymgorffori hynny, mewn ffordd, yn statudol o fewn y system gynllunio. Un o fanteision gwneud hynny fyddai cael diffiniad a phroses glir o ran asesu hyfywedd. So, mae hyfywedd yn y polisi, ond dyw e ddim yn cael ei ddiffinio, na'r broses o ganfod yr hyfywedd hynny. Mae asesiadau hyfywedd yn rhan o brosesau cynllunio weithiau, yng nghyd-destun tai, er enghraifft. Felly, dyw e ddim yn rhywbeth hollol ddieithr yn y cyd-destun cynllunio. Ond does gennym ni ddim fframwaith neu weithdrefnau ar gyfer asesu hyfywedd o fewn y cyd-destun yma ynglŷn â thanddaearu neu adeiladu llinellau uwchben y ddaear, ac mae'r gwelliant yma, a'r gwelliannau hyn, yn syml iawn, yn ceisio datrys hynny.

O ran gwelliannau 194 a 196, mae'r gwelliannau hyn yn ceisio cau mas y posibilrwydd yn llwyr o brojectau llinellau uwchben y ddaear yn cael eu dynodi fel SIPs, fel projectau o seilwaith arwyddocaol, mewn ardaloedd o dirweddau sensitif, fel maen nhw'n cael eu disgrifio yn y gwelliant, ac wedyn mae'r gwelliant yn rhestru rhai o'r prif gategorïau o dirweddau dynodedig. Mae hwn yn adleisio, i ryw raddau, y polisi cynllunio yn Lloegr sy'n dweud na allwch chi gael peilonau, llinellau trydan uwchben y ddaear o gwbl mewn parciau cenedlaethol ac AONBs, ardaloedd o harddwch naturiol eithriadol. Mae'r polisi yna wedi esgor, hyd yn oed, ar danddaearu llinellau presennol, gan gynnwys, a dweud y gwir, yng Nghymru dwi'n meddwl—ym Mharc Cenedlaethol Eryri. Mae hwn yn cymryd yr egwyddor honno, ond yn ei hymestyn mas i ddynodiadau tirweddol eraill, yn fras. Felly, dyna'r set yna o welliannau.

Mae gwelliannau 139 a 140, os ydw i'n dehongli yn iawn—dwi'n edrych ar fy nghyd-Aelod i a fydd yn gallu dweud mwy am hyn—yn ceisio cau mas y posibilrwydd o ddynodi projectau ffracio—o ddefnyddio'r term mwy dealladwy—neu lo brig yn brojectau o seilwaith arwyddocaol. A hynny, siŵr o fod, er mwyn cael cysondeb ag ymrwymiadau rhyngwladol y Llywodraeth fel sylfaenydd, er enghraifft, y rhwydwaith o wledydd tu ôl i'r Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance. Ond fe wnaf i adael i fy nghyd-Aelod Delyth Jewell ymhelaethu ynghylch hynny os yw'n dymuno gwneud.

Gobeithio, Gadeirydd, fy mod i wedi cyfro mewn digon, a dim gormod, o fanylder y set o welliannau yn y grŵp yma.

Just to refer to some of the other amendments, I believe that amendment 96 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders seeks—if I've read it correctly—to achieve the same aim, but in another manner. If the Minister accepts that objective, perhaps we'll hear which is the best way of incorporating that into the Bill. 

Amendment 37 will mean that any electricity line of any kilometre length can be included in this clause as long as the electricity lines are under 132 kV. There is an argument, perhaps, in favour of including electricity lines of 66, 33 and 11 kV in terms of being as comprehensive as possible, but it's beyond my technical knowledge to give you the advice as a committee on that. In terms of electricity lines above 132 kV, namely 275 and 400 kV, the powers over those, as far as I understand it, are reserved, but I would welcome, myself, the support of the Conservative group and the Government to transfer those powers. But is this clause is in danger of placing the Bill in difficulties in terms of competence? Perhaps we will hear more about that in a moment. 

In terms of the other amendments in the group, on my part, there is an amendment that sets out a kind of process to define the viability of a project, namely, it states that a project of above-ground electricity lines cannot be designated as a significant infrastructure project unless the option of undergrounding is closed off, as it were, because the related project, the electricity generating project, would not be viable economically. The policy background to this is what 'Planning Policy Wales' currently states, and I quote here,

'The Welsh Government’s preferred position on new power lines is that, where possible, they should be laid underground. However, it is recognised that a balanced view must be taken against costs which could render otherwise acceptable projects unviable.'

So, the amendment on one hand seeks to place this policy that assumes that undergrounding is the norm, excepting situations where projects wouldn't be viable, and incorporate that, in a way, on a statutory footing within the planning system. One of the benefits of doing that would be to have a definition and a clear process regarding assessing viability. So, viability is noted in the policy, but it isn't defined, nor is there a process set out for assessing that viability. Viability assessments are part of planning processes sometimes, in the context of housing, for example. So, it isn't an entirely new concept in the context of planning. But we don't have a framework or procedures to assess viability in this context in terms of undergrounding or constructing electricity lines above ground, and this amendment, and these amendments together, seek very simply to solve that issue.

In terms of amendments 194 and 196, these amendments seek to close out the possibility entirely of projects in terms of overhead electricity lines being designated as significant infrastructure projects or SIPs in areas of sensitive landscapes, as described in the amendment, and the amendment then lists some of the major categories of designated landscapes. This echoes, to some extent, the planning policy in England that states that you cannot have pylons, overground electricity lines at all in national parks and in areas of outstanding natural beauty or AONBs. That policy has led to the undergrounding, even, of current electricity lines, including, if truth be told, in Wales—in Eryri National Park. This takes that principle, but extends it further to include other kinds of designated landscapes, broadly. So, that is that set of amendments.

Amendments 139 and 140, if I interpret them correctly—I'm looking at my fellow Member here who will be able to tell us more about this—seek to close off the possibility of designating fracking projects—to use the looser definition—or opencast coal as projects of significant infrastructure. And that, probably, in order to have consistency with the international obligations of the Government as a founder, for example, of the network of countries behind the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. But I'll allow my fellow Member Delyth Jewell to expand on that if she wishes to. 

I hope, Chair, that I have covered in sufficient, but not too much, detail that set of amendments in this group.

10:25

Dyna ni. Diolch o galon, Adam. Joel.

There we are. Thank you very much, Adam. Joel

Thank you, Chair. I move amendments 96 and 37 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. Amendment 96 adds 'or underground' after 'ground', meaning that the installation of underground electric cables can be considered a significant infrastructure project too. This follows a submission by Llanarthne and Area Community Pylon Group, who raised concerns about the exclusion of certain types of electrical lines, both above and below ground, from the Bill's definitions.

Similarly, Llanarthne and Area Community Pylon Group also expressed uncertainty surrounding why certain electrical line voltages were included or excluded, and how this might affect the overall objective of simplifying the application process. Consequently, amendment 37 leaves out 132 kV.

Whilst I'm voting against amendment 192, because it clashes with Janet's 37, we will be supporting some of Adam's work today, for example, amendment 194, which would mean that an energy project is not to include the construction of overhead electricity lines in environmentally and culturally sensitive landscape areas, restricting the way overhead electricity infrastructure projects can take place.

Welsh Conservatives support underground and not cables overhead. The amendment would be a positive step to encourage action to address the wider problem that the process of deciding whether underground is more expensive than overhead is now fundamentally flawed. Indeed the most comprehensive cost comparison is a 2012 report by consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff—I hope I've pronounced that right. Whilst the report found the cost of installing new power connections underground is always more expensive than installing overhead lines, that finding may no longer be valid today when considering the advancement of technology since 2012 and the greater use of techniques—as Adam outlined—such as cable ploughing.

I do believe that urgent action is required by the Welsh Government to establish if undergrounding new electricity lines is more expensive than overhead lines and pylons. Whilst we are waiting for the scales to tip in favour of undergrounding, amendment 194 will further help reduce the plague of pylons in rural areas.

I cannot support amendments 139 nor 140 by Delyth either. The inclusion of hydraulic fracturing and opencast coal mining in the Bill is responsible. In the time of global conflict, to the point that cargo ships on one of the world's most important shipping routes have been attacked, Wales must have the legislation in place to facilitate the process, for example, of applying to open coal mines in Wales. Thank you.

10:30

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Firstly, I'd like to move amendments 139 and 140 in my name, please. We're unsure here about why opencast mining, hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas and coal gasification are considered significant infrastructure projects, and, as Adam has already alluded to, how that aligns with the wider aims and principles that we as a nation have aligned ourselves to, both nationally and internationally in terms of our global responsibility. I'd argue there isn't a justification for the centralisation of these projects that are not needed in tackling the climate crisis, because there are other far more sustainable, far less potentially dangerous, and certainly dangerous to our environment, ways of doing that, and they are projects with hugely localised impacts as well. I think that, as a principle, they should be decided locally as a result, particularly when we look at some of the horrific examples of what's already happened with these types of projects. The amendment is to probe why those projects have been included in the Bill and to seek to delete them from the list of projects included in Part 1 that would require infrastructure consent. If they're removed from the Bill, those applications would follow the normal planning process for deciding. 

Ar welliant 192 yn enw Adam, rwy'n meddwl bod rhaid i ni edrych ar ailgydraddoli'r system er budd cymunedau a hefyd er budd yr amgylchedd. O ran y costau, a beth roedd Joel wedi sôn amdano fanna, mae'n rhaid i ni edrych ar y gost mae cymunedau yn gorfod ei thalu pan mae cwmnïau allanol yn dod mewn ac yn echdynnu ac nid y gymuned sy'n gweld sgileffeithiau da. Efallai rhai cwmnïau bach neu grwpiau bach sy'n gweld buddion. Ond mae'n rhaid i ni edrych eto ar ailgydraddoli, achos pan mae pethau mawr yn digwydd i'n tirluniau ni mae yna gost fanna sydd ddim yn gost ariannol ond yn gost fwy haniaethol, efallai. Ac felly dwi'n meddwl bod angen ystyried hyn o ddifri. 

On amendment 192 in Adam's name, I do think that we have to look at redesigning the system for the benefit of communities and the environment. In terms of the costs that Joel mentioned there, we do have to look at the cost borne by communities when external companies do come in and extract and it's not the community that sees the positives of that. Perhaps it's small companies or small groups on a local level that see those benefits. We do have to look at rebalancing this, because when major developments happen on our landscape there is a cost there, which isn't a financial cost but a more abstract cost. So, I do think we need to consider this seriously. 

Diolch, Delyth. Mae Huw eisiau dweud gair ar y grŵp yna.    

Thank you, Delyth. Huw wants to say a word on this group. 

I'm looking forward to the Minister's response to Delyth's point there as to why it's appropriate to have them in. There may well be very good reasons to have them within this Bill in terms of national infrastructure, because, again, it's that issue of the Welsh Government can set a policy, we can decide as a Senedd whether we agree with it or not, but this is a process Bill. So, I suspect, I'm guessing, that that is what the Minister's going to argue: they need to be in there because this is 'in the eventuality of', even though we have a policy firmly that is against that because of decarbonisation. So I'm looking forward to the response.

I wanted to touch on some of the other ones, because this does go to the heart of the tension with community engagement, community influence over things, highly controversial issues of trying to open up new areas for development of energy potential within Wales that bring with it good connectivity. Joel mentioned that phrase 'a plague of pylons'. I live in industrial south Wales. We have probably some of the highest density not only of wind turbines, but also of pylons, and always have had, and it's a curious thing that we never speak about. Ideally, I would like no intrusion; I'd like perfect peace and tranquility. I'd like to see no other human intrusion or even individual humans when I look out on the area. That's my style of walking and rambling as well, to be honest. But I know that's not an ideal world, because we are in an era where we have to rush very fast towards decarbonisation and hit our net zero targets. There's never a fuss made about 'a plague of pylons' within south Wales. And I make that point not out of a parochial interest, but, my goodness, have we done our fair share of lifting, and the challenge now is what other parts of Wales can do it and how we do it.

I can understand why these amendments are being brought forward, but I'm really interested in what the desired effect of them is. Because we've had representations to this committee before from people who've said we need complete undergrounding of cables. Maybe, in an ideal world, we would have that. I think the challenge of this committee back to them has been, 'Can you show us the cost comparisons of this, with overgrounding, and how this will either enable projects to proceed, or stop them dead in their tracks?' There's a real tension here, I think, on the amendments that are to do with undergrounding, as to whether this is viable. I notice that within amendment 193, the wording is that

'the above ground electric line is necessary for the associated generating station to be economically viable.'

That's a fair form of wording, because what we're hearing at the moment is that the cost comparisons have not been effectively proven that this can be all done entirely with undergrounding, even though we might will it to happen. But the bit that's probably missing from that is 'economically viable and also can contribute to our decarbonisation targets'. There are some real tensions here within it. The interesting part within amendment 196 is where it refers to the long list of areas, and it includes within that things such as

'special landscape areas or their equivalent included in Local Development Plans'.

We have not only pylons, but also turbines in my constituency in heritage areas of conservation. We already have them. In fact, as you look across my area, I could go back retrospectively and argue that we should strip a lot of this out. I'm not sure what it would do to the Minister's plans on decarbonisation, and this is where the tension lies, once again. So, I just wonder about the impact. If you were to exclude not just national parks right at the top of the list, if you like, but down to these other ones, what would it do to the roll-out of some of these larger infrastructure projects that we know that we need? Because everybody often says, 'Let's not do the onshore wind'. I mean, in England at the moment, there's an absolute moratorium on onshore wind. So, they say, 'Let's do the offshore wind', and then you have the objections to the offshore wind and then you have proposals for the Severn barrage and then that gets stopped in its tracks.

My point is this—sorry, Chair. My point is that these seem to be very well intentioned in terms of saying, 'Let's get the right development in the right place, with undergrounding of cables, let's protect those special areas', but then I stand on top of the Bwlch mountain in my part of Wales, which I would argue is every bit as spectacular as any landscape—it's the southernmost tip of several post-glacial species—and think, 'Well, hold on here, we've sucked it in', because we accept that we have to hit those decarbonisation targets as well. So, there's something that I worry a little bit about in this—that it will pull it slightly in the other direction if it's not carefully considered. Because this, in its entirety, I worry, is something that's designed to actually militate against us achieving our decarbonisation targets. I understand the spirit of it, but a plague of pylons from the south Wales industrial areas?

10:35

Thank you, Huw. Jenny, and then we'll come to the Minister, and then we'll come to Adam to conclude on this.

I agree with my colleague Huw Irranca-Davies that amendment 196 does seem to set up a tension between those areas considered to be desirable areas and the rest—communities that just have to put up with what we've got.

I specifically wanted to probe the Government on why we don't need to specify, as per amendment 192—. Because section 2 is very specific on the things that are included in electricity infrastructure, but it's silent on the undergrounding of pylons, which seems to me an entirely useful technology that needs to be considered. As this is a process piece of legislation, what stakeholders want is certainty. So, I think it would be useful for them, for example, to know whether undergrounding was deemed to be something that would bring them into the scope of significant national infrastructures. I wait to hear from the Minister as to why we wouldn't want to specify the inclusion of the undergrounding infrastructure, as described in amendment 192.

10:40

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I keep hearing an echo of myself. I just want to start by emphasising the point I made at first: I have a lot of sympathy with a lot of the policy points being made, but we have been at great pains to say that this is not a policy Bill. The Bill does not have policy in it. The Bill has to be read against all of the planning policy documents that exist: 'Future Wales: the national plan', 'Planning Policy Wales', a whole raft of technical advice notes and various other things that sit alongside this.

The idea is to get a process Bill in place that covers the process for certainty for local authorities to be able to plan their resources accordingly, to make sure that we have the expertise necessary to deal with complex things that might only happen once in a local authority's lifetime and they wouldn't have the expertise for—they'd have to tool up, and then they would be tooled up, but they'd never ever deal with that again, because whatever it is has now been built in their area. This is about making sure we have both the expertise to be able to do it, which is best placed nationally, and to make sure that where local communities are hosting something that has national significance, they have both the benefit of that, because they get the community benefits, and, I would very much hope, profit shares as we develop the local ownership clauses, and they get the central process, if you like, expertise to come and help them with that. Some of these infrastructure projects cross many local authority areas, so it's not as if they're nicely contained within one local planning authority. Clearly, that is another consideration. But I can't emphasise enough that whilst I have a lot of sympathy with a lot of the policy debate we're having here, this Bill is not intended to deal with policy. It is intended to deal with process.

Turning to the specific amendments, amendments 192 and 96 are both concerned with section 2 on energy. They both relate to the consenting of underground electric cables in the Bill, so I'll just deal with them together. Welsh planning policy starts from a presumption that the grid should be underground wherever possible, to reduce visual impact. That is already the Welsh Government's policy. I absolutely support this policy by making the consenting of underground cables as easy as possible. It is now already the case that underground electric lines are a permitted development in many places, and that facilitates their roll-out. If you brought the undergrounding of electric cables in their entirety into this regime, you would actually have the opposite effect, by increasing their cost and making them go through planning cycles where they're currently permitted development. I don't think that's the intention, I'm sure it isn't, but we have to guard against unintended consequences. We don't think that the evidence supporting the projects and thresholds in the Bill supports them being brought into the regime for that reason. But, absolutely, I accept there will be individual projects where the extent of them is such that they might be brought into the regime. It certainly isn't all undergrounding of cables, because lots of people do that all the time for small projects without needing any planning consent at all.

We would, of course, continue to have, as the Bill sets out, the power to direct that a project is a Welsh Government project of significance. So, there is that, and, as I said in answer to Adam's previous set of amendments, it doesn't prevent developments coming forward by taking them out of this regime, it pushes them back to the local planning authority. As Adam summed up, he was saying about the disincentive. I don't disagree with that, but you have to bear in mind that there is also a provision where, if the local authority doesn't do it fast enough, they can be taken for non-determination and that comes back to us anyway. So, there are double loops in the planning system that need to be taken into account. Whilst I accept the disincentive point, I also don't want local authorities to be being prosecuted for non-determination all over the place because they have neither the expertise nor the resource to deal with projects that have been taken out of the Bill. We're dealing with quite a complex set of processes. You almost need a flow diagram to show you what happens if something is in or out of the Bill. I do think it's important that the committee understands the consequences of removing things from the Bill. I hope that points out where we're trying to go. So, I'm asking the committee to reject these amendments.

I will say, though, Adam, that I'm more than happy to work with you—and you're right that I have visited the company; I am very keen on undergrounding, and the Welsh Government policy is to underground it—to have a look at whether we can strengthen 'Planning Policy Wales' in any way to make that a much more inherent part of the system. I have a lot of sympathy with what you say. 

I just want to say, on the policy point—although this is a process Bill, and it's not really what we should be dealing with—the current policy does talk about cost disincentives, and that is absolutely right, but there are other disincentives. So, I have just spent an enormous amount of Welsh public money restoring peatlands right across mid and west Wales. I obviously don't want them dug up for cables, nor do I want them crossed by pylons. So, there are lots of things where what you're actually talking about is an alternative route, and if you look at a map of Wales with a policy hat on, which I don't think we should be doing today, but, if we did do that, you would see that there are routes that we all can see are the only real routes that are viable for big transmission networks. 

We know that west and mid Wales do not have sufficient grid. We know that the people in the communities in the area need more grid. We have to find a route to get that grid to them that has the least environmentally damaging and visual aspect-damaging point. I have a lot of sympathy with communities who are not wanting massive high-voltage overhead power lines, but they want the electricity, so we have to find a solution for them is the point I think Huw was also making, really. 

Turning to amendment 37, which is attempting to amend the type of cables that can be consented, we only have competence for those lines that have a nominal voltage of 132kV. So, removal of the words simply makes the Bill less clear. It doesn't take it out of competence because our competence is set out by the Government of Wales Act 2006, but it would mean that somebody trying to figure out what the Bill affects would have to read the Government of Wales Act 2006 together with the Bill, as opposed to just being able to read it on the face of the Bill, and that's why it's included. So, I don't think it's helpful to take them out; it just helps the person reading the process to understand what is within the competence of the Welsh Government and what isn't. 

I couldn't agree more with Adam's proposal that we'd like to have more competence—we argue for that all the time. This is clearly an arbitrary limit on it, but, nevertheless, that's the situation for competence. So, removing them doesn't—. I don't think it takes—. It wouldn't render the Bill unenforceable, or whatever; it would just make it more difficult to access. And one of the reasons that we are very keen to keep this Bill as a process Bill and keep the policy stuff in the policy Bills is for the accessibility tof Welsh law project, which we are very keen to make sure people can understand, because as Welsh law, rightly, diverges from English law, we want people to be able to access it in the most advantageous way possible. So, making it as clear as possible on the face of the Bill is where we are.  

And then, just on amendments 193 and 194, which are probing amendments that I think you were looking at, again, removing developments from the Bill doesn't mean they don't come forward. It doesn't mean that there isn't a necessary assessment of these applications. It just means it goes back through the local planning process.

I just want to be really clear with amendments 139 and 140 while I'm doing this. The Welsh Government is a member of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. Our policy on fossil fuel extraction could not be any clearer. I disagree entirely with what Joel James said. We are not including those things in this Bill in order to facilitate their removal from the soil, but because we have to have a process, and the process of ensuring that the Welsh Government's policy of no extraction of fossil fuels is best followed is by having a process in place that brings those matters into the Welsh Government for determination. So, it's actually reinforcing the policy. We can't not have a policy; we can't prevent speculative developers from all over the world deciding to have a go—I've got several of them ongoing at the moment, as it happens—but we have a robust policy to see them off, and what this is doing is putting a process in place to see them off. A future Welsh Government might change its mind, but currently our policy is both robust and vigorously pursued, but we must have a policy to do that because we can't prevent people from speculatively coming forward with these developments. So, I just want to be really clear that the reason for including them is to have that process. It is not about watering down a policy of any sort. But the policy documents are elsewhere; this is simply the process. Diolch, Cadeirydd.

10:45

Diolch, Weinidog. Adam Price i ymateb i'r ddadl.  

Thank you, Minister. Adam Price to respond to the debate. 

Yes. Again, I'm very grateful for committee members' contributions and the Minister's remarks, and I'll try and go through them in order in relation to the set of amendments that I presented. So, I think, in relation to the first amendment, 192, which seeks to put underground electricity lines into the Bill, I’m interested in knowing more than I do currently about the precise legal framework here. The intention is to ensure that there is, at least in policy and in practical terms, parity in terms of the way that undergrounding is treated as a practical alternative to overhead lines.

Clearly, I can completely appreciate that, for small projects—connecting a house or a small area, where you’re using undergrounding lines—permitted development would be the norm. I’m struggling a little bit to imagine that, if a developer was to propose tomorrow a 70-mile undergrounding of an electricity line, that that would not go through a planning process. But I maybe would pause there. It would be certainly a new—

10:50

Right, okay. Well, if it depends, then I think maybe there is some role for something in the Bill, but shall we just press pause on that one? I would appreciate the ability to speak further with the Minister and officials to try and understand how we can achieve the shared goal, I think, and obviously echoed by Jenny as well. But let’s see what we need to do to get that in place.

In terms of the next amendment, which relates to economic viability—so, essentially creates an even stronger default—it only allows overhead versus underground to go ahead if you can demonstrate that the associated electricity-generating infrastructure project would not stack up economically otherwise, and it seeks to create a process around that. I think that, certainly from my perspective, there’s still value in having what is currently in policy set out in greater detail in terms of how you demonstrate—. It’s not enough, surely, for a developer just to say, 'Well, I'm telling you it wouldn't be viable—I'm the developer'. Well, they would say that anyway. There should be an independent process and then we need some words set out explicitly somehow, either in statute or in another format around that. So, what I would suggest there with the Minister—. And maybe there is a process somewhere that we didn’t know about—okay, well, let’s see the detail of that then, because I think we also need transparency, don’t we? We need people to understand how that would be defined and what the is process for establishing it, et cetera. So, let’s press pause as well on this probing amendment for the time being and have those further discussions, and there’s always an opportunity, if necessary, to return to it at a later stage.

In terms of the wider policy intent—and in the context of that discussion in terms of the existing policy and how that’s implemented, and how we could strengthen the existing policy even further—as the Minister said, yes, it would be really useful to have that discussion. I nevertheless would like to press 194 and its associated amendment, 196, to a vote, with your permission, Chair. I think there is an important point of principle here, which I think would be useful to press to a vote. But I will just say, in terms of Huw, just to be clear, my party's policy is to do what the Netherlands have done and to do what Denmark has done, which is to have a policy of undergrounding everywhere, not just for new lines, but also for existing lines—to respond to Huw Irranca-Davies's point. You can do that in phases, but that's exactly what they've done, actually, in the Netherlands. They've put everything underground, below 132 kV, and I think that's what we should do. And there are all kinds of reasons. There are good environmental policy reasons for that. As we get into more unpredictable weather, you get more outages, actually, from overhead lines. And certainly in terms of getting community support for the necessary, at-pace decarbonisation investment that we need, if we were to say, 'We're going to underground in Wales tomorrow', then instead of getting opposition, which is what we're currently seeing in those areas where overhead electricity line projects are being promoted, we'd get the communities actually backing these projects. So, I think there are good policy reasons why we need it.

I think what this amendment does, as Joel James said, is it takes a step towards that, isn't it? It strengthens that default position even further, because it makes it much more difficult, certainly, to advance those overhead projects in the specific areas. It's an amendable list, it's an expandable list, and that is up for further discussion, certainly, but the reason that we included not just the national parks and the areas of outstanding natural beauty, which is the position in England, but a much wider section of areas was precisely to respond to the point that Huw Irranca-Davies made: special landscape areas exist in Valleys communities throughout south Wales. So, it reflects the fact that environmentally, culturally sensitive areas exist throughout Wales, and they should also be protected equally. I look forward to the further discussions, but, on this particular set of amendments there, I would like to press that to a vote, if I may.

10:55

Okay. So, can I just be clear, then, as I moved 192, are you asking me to withdraw amendment 192?

Tynnwyd gwelliant 192 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 192 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Okay, we'll move on to the next amendment, then, amendment 96 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. Joel, do you move?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 96 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 96 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes, amendment 96 has been moved. So, the question is that amendment 96 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There's an objection, so we'll move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 96, please show. That's three. All those against. Three. So, I, as Chair, cast my vote in the negative, meaning that amendment 96 falls. 

Gwelliant 96: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 96: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 37 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 37 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

The question is that amendment 37 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. We'll move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 37, please show. One. All those against, please show. Three. Any abstentions? Two. There we are. So, amendment 37 falls. 

Gwelliant 37: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 2

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 37: For: 1, Against: 3, Abstain: 2

Amendment has been rejected

So, Adam, amendment 193, you do not wish me to move. 

There we are, and if committee is content, we will not move amendment 193. 

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliant 193 (Adam Price [R]). 

Amendment 193 (Adam Price [R]) not moved.

Amendment 194, I believe, Adam, you want me to move.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 194 (Adam Price [R])

Amendment 194 (Adam Price [R]) moved.

Yes. I move amendment 194. The question is that amendment 194 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. We move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 194, please show. We have three in favour. And against. Three against. I therefore have to cast my vote, as Chair, in the negative, meaning that amendment 194 falls.

Gwelliant 194: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 194: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

I believe that I'm not being asked to move amendment 195. It relates to the previous group around local ownership. There were two amendments in that group.

Not to. Yes, there we are. So, are Members content for that not to be moved? Diolch yn fawr.

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliant 195 (Adam Price [R]). 

Amendment 195 (Adam Price [R]) not moved.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 196 (Adam Price [R])

Amendment 196 (Adam Price [R]) moved.

But I will be moving amendment 196 in the name of Adam Price. The question is that amendment 196 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. We move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 196, please show. Three. All those against. Three. Therefore, I have to cast my vote, as Chair, in the negative, meaning that amendment 196 falls.

Gwelliant 196: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 196: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Amendment 139, in the name of Delyth Jewell. Delyth, do you move the amendment?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 139 (Delyth Jewell)

Amendment 139 (Delyth Jewell) moved.

Thank you. If amendment 139 is agreed, then amendments 97 and 98 fall. So, the question is that amendment 139 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. All those, therefore, in favour of amendment 139, please show. We have two. All those against. We have four. So, amendment 139 falls.

11:00

Gwelliant 139: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 139: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Amendment 97 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. Joel, do you move?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 97 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 97 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes, that's moved. Therefore, the question is that amendment 97 be agreed to. Does any Member object? We have no objections. Therefore, that amendment is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Amendment 98 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. Joel, do you move?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 98 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 98 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes. Okay. The question is that amendment 98 be agreed to. Does any Member object? We have no objections. Therefore, amendment 98 is passed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 140 (Delyth Jewell).

Amendment 140 (Delyth Jewell) moved.

Yes, you do. There we are. The question is that amendment 140 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. Therefore, we'll move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 140, please show. That's two. All those against. Four. Amendment 140, therefore, falls.

Gwelliant 140: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 4, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 140: For: 2, Against: 4, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

So, before moving on to the next group, I think it's probably timely for us to have a short comfort break. We'll reconvene in 10 minutes, if Members are happy with that. Diolch yn fawr.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:01 ac 11:13.

The meeting adjourned between 11:01 and 11:13.

11:10
Grŵp 4: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Trafnidiaeth (Gwelliannau 99, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43)
Group 4: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Transport (Amendments 99, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43)

Okay, welcome back to the committee. We're moving on to the fourth group of amendments, which relate to significant infrastructure projects for transport. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 99, in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders, and I call on Joel James to move and speak to the lead amendment and any other amendments in the group. Joel.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 99 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 99 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you, Chair. I move all the amendments in Janet's name in this section. It is imperative that the Bill is as clear as possible, so amendment 99 seeks to clarify what is meant by 'significant effect on the environment'. The definition provided is:

'a substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and object of historic or aesthetic significance.'

This should assist the Minister in deeming if a project does have significant impact on the environment. It also provides clarity to applicants, as it gives them a better understanding of what to avoid, so their application is more likely to be considered environmentally acceptable.

Similarly, the principle of providing as much clarity as possible in the Bill is the motivation behind amendment 38. The current harbour facilities section is too complex. Janet has amended the section to be simpler and to allow for more projects to be considered a SIP. Should anyone wish to oppose amendment 38, please can you clarify why, then, you wish facilities for container ships to be 50,000 TEU—why not more or less—facilities for roll-on, roll-off ships to be 25,000 units—why not more or less—and facilities for cargo ships to be 500,000 tonnes? Why not more or less? Thank you.

11:15

Thank you, Joel. Do we have any further Members wishing to speak? No. Minister. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Amendment 99 would add a definition of significant effect to the alteration or improvement of a highway. The amendment would create confusion with other regimes like the environmental impact assessment that use the term 'significant'. Guidance is better placed to provide clarification on the term 'significant', as that can include practical examples or methodologies for assessing impact. 

Amendments 39 through to 43 are consequential to amendment 39, and so I'm just dealing with them all together. The amendments seek to replace our definition of an alteration of a harbour with a new definition of when an alteration to a harbour should be considered a SIP. In my view, the amendments would, together, make any alteration of a harbour subject to the new processes. This would be disproportionate to the effect of the development. I'm not really sure what the intent of the amendment is, but I think that would be the effect. That's because the amendment would mean that the harbour must be capable of handling those ships with no limitation on the extent of the amendment itself, only that the harbour can handle a large ship of different descriptions and that harbour is being amended. 

There are other issues as well. In terms of amendment 40, the proposed wording would add a very wide interpretation into the provision. So, I consider that the wording of 'cruise ship' could include, for example, small boats that undertake day charters for fishing. This would mean any amendment to a port to accommodate a fishing boat would go through this process. This is also, clearly, disproportionate. 

In terms of amendment 41, the Senedd does not have competence for reserved trust ports. Removal of these words would make the Bill less clear, as the reader would need to read the Bill and the Government of Wales Act 2006 together to understand the projects that fall under the Bill. I therefore ask the committee to reject the amendments in the group. 

Thank you, Chair. I'm conscious of the Minister's response, but I, nonetheless, would like to proceed to the vote. 

There we are. Okay, thank you. So, the question is that amendment 99 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. All those therefore in favour of amendment 99, we have three. All those against, we have three. Therefore, I cast my vote as Chair in the negative against amendment 99, which falls. 

Gwelliant 99: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 99: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 100 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 100 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

The question is that amendment 100 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. So, all those in favour of amendment 100, please show. Three. All those against. Three. I cast, therefore, my vote as Chair in the negative, and amendment 100 falls.

Gwelliant 100: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 100: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Amendment 101 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. Joel, do you move?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 101 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 101 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

There we are, it's moved. All those in favour of amendment 101. Three. All those against. Three. Sorry, I should have asked whether there was any objection, but I can see that with three votes against that we can take that as read. [Laughter.] I therefore cast my vote as Chair in the negative, meaning that amendment 101 falls.

Gwelliant 101: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 101: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Amendment 38 in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. Joel, do you move?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 38 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 38 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes. The question is that amendment 38 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] It's objected to, therefore, all those in favour of amendment 38, please show. That's one. All those against. That's five. Amendment 38 falls.

Gwelliant 38: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 38: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 39 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 39 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

The question is that amendment 39 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. All those therefore in favour of amendment 39, one. All those against, five. Amendment 39, therefore, is rejected. 

Gwelliant 39: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 39: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 40 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 40 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

There we are. The question is that amendment 40 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] It's objected to, therefore, all those in favour of amendment 40, please show. One. All those against. Three. Any abstentions? Two. There we are. Amendment 40 falls.

Gwelliant 40: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 2

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 40: For: 1, Against: 3, Abstain: 2

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 41 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 41 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

There we are. The question is that amendment 41 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so all those in favour of amendment 41, please show. One. All those against. Five. Amendment 41, therefore, falls. 

Gwelliant 41: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 41: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 42 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 42 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

There we are. The question is that amendment 42 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There's an objection, so we move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 42, please show. One. All those against. Five. Amendment 42 falls.

11:20

Gwelliant 42: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 42: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 43 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 43 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

There we are. The question is that amendment 43 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] It's objected to, therefore we move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 43, please show. One. All those against. Five. Amendment 43 is rejected.

Gwelliant 43: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 43: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 102 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 102 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Joel moves. Yes, thank you. The question is that amendment 102 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. All those in favour, therefore, of 102, please show. Three. All those against. Three. As Chair, therefore, I cast my vote in the negative, and amendment 102 falls.

Gwelliant 102: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 102: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 5: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Dŵr a Dŵr Gwastraff (Gwelliannau 44, 103, 45, 105, 107, 112)
Group 5: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Water and Waste Water (Amendments 44, 103, 45, 105, 107, 112)

So, we come to the fifth group of amendments, and the fifth group relates to significant infrastructure projects for water and waste water, and the lead amendment in this group is amendment 44, in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders, but I call on Joel James to move and speak to the lead amendment and any other amendments in that group. Joel.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 44 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 44 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you, Chair. I move all amendments in Janet's name in this section. Amendments 44 and 45 change the original feature stated at section 12(a), the construction or alteration of a dam or reservoir in Wales, from 10 million cubic metres to 30 million cubic metres, so as to match the Planning Act 2008.

Similarly, amendments 103 and 105 strive to have a more consistent approach by introducing a new threshold, which means that the deployable output of dams or reservoirs is considered when it comes to determining if a development is an SIP. The proposed threshold is used by the UK Government for projects to determine nationally significant infrastructure projects. I do not see why we would wish to differ on that point. Amendment 107 makes it so that development relating to the transfer of water resources is an SIP if the development does or does not relate to the transfer of drinking water. At present, the Bill is drafted in a way such that a development cannot be considered an SIP if it relates to the transfer of drinking water.

Finally, amendment 112 makes provision for the following developments to be an SIP: the construction of a waste water treatment plant; the construction of infrastructure for the transfer or storage of waste water; the alteration of a waste water treatment plant; and the alteration of infrastructure for the transfer or storage of waste water. We've added this additional subsection to provide that infrastructure, including pipeline replacement, will be an SIP if the replaced infrastructure has a storage capacity exceeding 350,000 cubic metres. Thank you.

Thank you, Joel. Are there any other Members who wish to contribute? No. There we are. Thank you. I'll therefore call on the Minister to respond to this group.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I will speak on amendments 44 and 45 together. Amendment 44 would increase the threshold for dams from 10 million cubic metres to 30 million cubic meters. Amendment 45 would make the same change for amendments to these structures. The 10 million cubic meters is the same criteria we currently operate for developments of national significance. The threshold also aligns with the Reservoirs Act 1975, and the requirement for increased regulation and oversight of these structures by NRW. I see no evidence that the threshold is inappropriate, and I therefore call on the committee to reject amendments 44 and 45.

Gadeirydd, I will also speak on amendments 103 and 105 together. These amendments would add a new criteria to require the reservoirs' deployable output to be expected to exceed 80 million cubic litres per day. I do note a similar metric is used in England. However, the NSIP regime has this as an alternative threshold to the capacity of the reservoir. This reflects different types of reservoirs, for example capture reservoirs or holding reservoirs, that have no natural catchment but are used in transfer schemes. This amendment is restricting a reservoir to one that fulfills both criteria. The threshold of 80 million cubic litres per day would also align to the 30 million cubic meters threshold proposed in amendments 44 and 45, and would need to be reconsidered if such a metric was brought in. We've had no evidence that the threshold is inappropriate, and I would certainly want to consult before any such change was made. Therefore, I cannot support these amendments.

Turning then to amendment 107, that would bring the transfer of water resources for drinking water into the Bill. However, the amendment as drafted would mean that any water pipes, including those water pipes supplying houses on a new housing estate, would need to be considered in case they fell within the threshold. No evidence has been presented that the threshold is inappropriate, and I would certainly want to consult before such a change was made. I therefore ask the committee to reject the amendments.

Amendment 112 would insert a requirement that the replacement infrastructure for the transfer or storage of waste water is an SIP. I'm not really certain what the amendment is intending to capture. Is it the entire replacement of a project, or replacement of part of a project? So, for example, would replacement of 100m of pipe mean the whole system would fall within the Bill? It's not clear, unfortunately, from the amendment. I consider 'replacement' would be a 'construction' of new infrastructure to replace old, or, possibly, an alteration of the old infrastructure, depending on the extent of the alteration. So, I don't know that the amendment is required and it's not clear.

Again, no evidence has been presented that the threshold is inappropriate, and we would again want to consult before any such change was made. I therefore ask the committee to reject all the amendments in this group.

11:25

Thank you, Minister. Can I invite Joel to respond to the Minister?

Thank you, Chair. And I'm conscious of the Minister's comments, but I'd still like to proceed to a vote.

There we are. Thank you. So, amendment 44 has been moved. Therefore, the question is that amendment 44 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so we'll have a vote. All those in favour of amendment 44, please show. That's one. All those against. Five. Amendment 44 is therefore not agreed.

Gwelliant 44: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 44: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 103 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 103 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

There we are. The question is that amendment 103 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Thank you. We have an objection. All those, therefore, in favour of amendment 103, please show. One. All those against. Five. Amendment 103 is therefore rejected.

Gwelliant 103: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 103: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 104 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 104 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you, Joel. The question is that amendment 104 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, therefore we will vote on 104. All those in favour, please show. Three. All those against. Three. I therefore cast my vote as Chair against the amendment, which subsequently falls.

Gwelliant 104: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 104: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 45 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 45 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you. The question is that amendment 45 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. So, all those in favour of amendment 45, please show. One. And those against. Five. Amendment 45 falls.

Gwelliant 45: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 45: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 105 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 105 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes, you do. The question is, therefore, that amendment 105 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. All those in favour, therefore, of 105, please show. One. All those against. Five. Amendment 105 is rejected.

Gwelliant 105: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 105: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 106 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 106 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

You do. There we are. The question is that amendment 106 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We therefore move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 106, please show. Three. All those against. Three. I therefore cast my vote as Chair against amendment 106, which therefore falls.

Gwelliant 106: O blaid: 3, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gan fod nifer y pleidleisiau yn gyfartal, defnyddiodd y Cadeirydd ei bleidlais fwrw yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 6.20(ii).

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 106: For: 3, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

As there was an equality of votes, the Chair used his casting vote in accordance with Standing Order 6.20(ii).

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 107 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 107 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes, there we are. The question is that amendment 107 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We therefore move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 107, please show. One. All those against. Five. Amendment 107 is therefore rejected.

Gwelliant 107: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 107: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 108 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 108 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you. The question is that amendment 108 be agreed to. Does any Member object? We have no objections, therefore amendment 108 passes.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 109 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 109 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes, you do. The question is that amendment 109 be agreed to. Does any Member object? No objection. Amendment 109, therefore, is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 110 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 110 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Moved. There we are. The question is that amendment 110 be agreed to. Does any Member object? No objections. The amendment, therefore, passes.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 111 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 111 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes, it is. The question is that amendment 111 be agreed to. Does any Member object? No objections. Amendment 111 is therefore agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 112 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 112 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Yes. Thank you. The question is that amendment 112 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. We'll move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 112, please show. One. All those against. Three. Any abstentions? Two. Amendment 112, therefore, is rejected.

Gwelliant 112: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 2

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 112: For: 1, Against: 3, Abstain: 2

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 6: Rhan 1 – Prosiectau Seilwaith Arwyddocaol: Pŵer i ddiwygio (Gwelliannau 46, 113)
Group 6: Part 1 – Significant Infrastructure Projects: Power to amend (Amendments 46, 113)

So, we'll move next to the sixth group of amendments, which relates to significant infrastructure projects, power to amend. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 46, in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders, and I'll call on Joel James to move and speak to the lead amendment and the other amendments in this group. Joel.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 46 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 46 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to move both amendments in the name of Janet. The amendments relate to the power to add, vary or remove projects. RWE Renewables highlighted the Bill's shortcomings in addressing upcoming infrastructure necessary for the energy transition. Examples include hydrogen distribution pipework, carbon dioxide-related facilities, shared heat networks and water supplies specific to green hydrogen electrolysis. The company drew attention to the Bill's omission of stand-alone hydrogen production and related facilities. Bute Energy concurred, saying, 

'we note there is an absence of emerging and future technologies such as hydrogen infrastructure and related activities within the definition of SIPs. Whilst there are provisions under Section 17 that grant powers to Welsh Ministers to add, vary or remove types of SIPs, it is disappointing that this is not accounted for in the current document. We would welcome this addition given the Welsh Government’s push to develop a hydrogen strategy as part of the pathway for net zero.'

Amendments 46 and 113 are a reflection of the calls made by stakeholders to the committee. Thank you.

11:30

Thank you, Joel. Do we have any other Members wishing to contribute to this discussion? No. I'll ask the Minister therefore to speak to this group of amendments. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Amendment 46 amends section 17. Section 17 allows the Welsh Ministers to amend Part 1 by regulations in order to add a new type of project to the definition of 'significant infrastructure project', or to vary or remove the existing significant infrastructure projects defined in the Bill. Projects may only be added or varied if the new project, or any variation to an existing project, is for the carrying out of works in the fields of energy, flood prevention, minerals, transport, water, waste water and waste, and the works that are to be carried out in Wales or the Welsh marine area.

We consider this amendment would require consultation before regulations are made. I understand where the amendment is coming from, but we already have a commitment to consult in accordance with general public law principles and in line with our consultation policy. Further, this provision is subject to the draft affirmative procedure as set out in section 137(3) and (4), which means a further level of scrutiny and Senedd approval of any changes.

In terms of the specific amendment, I feel the wording would need to be reconsidered in the interests of clear law; for example, there is uncertainty over who determines what persons are necessarily to be consulted. So, we think it's a confusing addition and not necessary. 

Amendment 113 would amend which projects could be added or altered to the Bill. I understand the intent of the amendment, which appears to be to anticipate projects that may come forward in the future, but our existing wording would enable us to capture all of these projects. And importantly, the amendment would mean we cannot change the existing thresholds in the Bill, or add new categories of development in certain fields. For example, flood prevention schemes would fall outside of categories listed in the amendment and could not be added. 

I therefore call on the committee to reject amendments 46 and 113.

Thank you, Minister. Can I invite Joel to respond? 

Thank you, Chair, and I'd like to thank the Minister for her understanding of the reasons why these amendments were put forward, and I'd still like to proceed to the vote. 

There we are. Okay. The question is therefore that amendment 46 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] It's objected to, so we will move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 46, please show. One. All those against. Three. Any abstentions? Two. Amendment 46 therefore is rejected. 

Gwelliant 46: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 2

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 46: For: 1, Against: 3, Abstain: 2

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 113 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 113 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you. The question is that amendment 113 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection, so we'll vote on 113. All Members in favour, please show. One. All those against. Three. Any abstentions? Two. Diolch yn fawr. So, that amendment is also rejected. 

Gwelliant 113: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 2

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 113: For: 1, Against: 3, Abstain: 2

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 114 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 114 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

There we are. The question is that amendment 114 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We need therefore to move to a vote. All those in favour of amendment 114. One. All those against. Three. And abstentions. Two. Amendment 114— 

Chair, can I change that—? No, it's too late to amend that to against, isn't it? 

Yes, okay. But that amendment has been rejected, so there we are. Diolch yn fawr. 

Gwelliant 114: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 2

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 114: For: 1, Against: 3, Abstain: 2

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 7: Rhan 2 – Gofyniad am gydsyniad Seilwaith (Gwelliannau 156, 157, 47, 48, 49, 158, 50, 51, 1)
Group 7: Part 2 – Requirement for Infrastructure Consent (Amendments 156, 157, 47, 48, 49, 158, 50, 51, 1)

Group 7, then, of amendments. The seventh group relates to Part 2, requirement for infrastructure consent. Now, the lead amendment in this group is amendment 156.  

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 156 (Julie James).

Amendment 156 (Julie James) moved.

And I move amendment 156 in the name of the Minister, and call on the Minister to speak to her amendment and other amendments in the group

Thank you, Chair. I've tabled amendments 156 and 157 to ensure powers contained in other relevant—I can't speak now—relevant legislation and the Bill are consistent and avoid duplication. These are technical amendments, which have no effect on any policy contained within the Bill.

Amendment 156 relates to the removal of references to section 110 of the Highways Act 1980 in section 20 of the Bill. The amendment ensures any references to the Highways Act 1980 is consistent with the powers contained within the Bill.

Amendment 157 is consequential to amendment 156, and ensures that any references to the Highways Act 1980 is consistent with the powers within the Bill.

Amendment 47 removes section 22. Section 22 is the ability to direct a specific development as a significant infrastructure project.

Amendment 48 removes section 23. This section is the ability to direct an application is to be treated as an application for infrastructure consent.

Section 22 relates to to directing a development, whereas section 23 relates to directing an application. However, they achieve the same outcome, and therefore I do not support amendments 47 and 48. First, the evidence presented to this committee by WWU and SP Energy Networks supported the ability to direct a project into the regime. Secondly, it is important to be able to direct specific projects or applications, and these sections recognise that the threshold is a blunt instrument, and that other factors may affect a scheme’s significance. This power will stop developers ‘gaming the system’, and avoiding the project coming above the threshold with a development of, for example, 49.9 MW. Thirdly, the provision also enables responses to new and novel technology. 

Amendment 49 removes section 24. Section 24 is the ability to direct that a development is not a significant infrastructure project. I do not support this amendment. The evidence this committee received from NRW, Bute Energy and RenewableUK Cymru all identified the importance of cross-border projects. This provision is designed to address those concerns. The provision means that we can respond to a development that crosses borders, not only on land, but also in the sea.

Amendment 158 has been brought forward following consideration of recommendation 11 in the LJC committee report. The amendment inserts a new section (a) and (b) into section 24, and covers directions specifying that the development is not a significant infrastructure project. The amendment will also insert a new subsection into section 24 that requires publication of any direction made and for a statement to be made to the Senedd that a direction has been made, and the reasons it has been made.

I do not support amendment 50, which removes the general provisions that apply to directions under section 22 to 24, and amendment 51, which removes directions under section 22, regulations about procedure, as these sections are needed to ensure our system of direction works. These include the time frame, form of requests et cetera in the system.

Finally, Government amendment 1 is a technical drafting amendment only, and has no effect on the policy contained within the Bill. Section 26 relates to the procedure where a direction is given specifying a project as a SIP, or that it is not a SIP. This amendment ensures there is clarity over a procedure applying to a singular or group of persons, and is intended to ensure the drafting is consistent throughout the Bill. The amendment makes it clear the regulations can set a single person or a group of people when a direction is made. Diolch.

11:35

Thank you, Chair. We are able to support several of the Minister's amendments in this group, and I would kindly ask that you all consider doing the same for the amendments in Janet's name, especially amendment 47. This amendment removes the whole of section 22 from the Bill, directions specifying development as an SIP, as it gives Ministers too much power. The powers of direction in section 22 and 24 could be misused for political advantage, allowing decisions with negative political implications to be sidestepped. Clear criteria should be established by the circumstances in which the powers could be used. Without that clarity there's a real risk that the Welsh Government could pass the buck to planning authorities, which we already know are overwhelmed. In fact, there are as many as 135 vacancies in the planning sector in local authorities. The impact of the staffing crisis in planning departments is apparent in authorities such as Flintshire, which has warned of planning delays due to a shortage of staff and high volumes of work. We should reduce the risk of more pressure being passed from the Welsh Government to planning authorities by making it impossible for Welsh Ministers to specify that a development that would otherwise be a significant infrastructure project is not a significant infrastructure project. Thank you.

I will resist amendments 47, 48 and 49. It seems to me that the Minister has already mentioned the idea of a developer gaming the system, and I think it's really important that we have section 22, 23 and 24 to ensure that developers aren't simply putting in a little wiggle of English pipeline or development that would enable the UK Government to try and argue that this wasn't just a Welsh development. I think it's really clear that we need to have the powers to ensure it can be specified as significant where there is a border issue. We can't simply just allow the UK Government at the other end of the M4 to determine it for us. So I will be voting against those three amendments. 

Just a couple of things. I just want to speak in favour of the Government amendments here, because it is true that the evidence that we heard was very much about enabling those cross-border projects to proceed within the framework of the legislation, and certainly not to impair them, but also the evidence that we had from the Minister on justifying why that need for a power to direct was sometimes required. But I do welcome, on that basis, the fact that you've responded very warmly to the LJC committee's recommendation—we've got two members of the LJC committee on this committee today as well; it's the necessity of the way we work in the Senedd with 60 Members—that you need to put that in front of the Senedd when you actually use that direction. So, I support those entirely, and for the reasons I've just outlined, that's why I wouldn't support the other amendments being put forward by Joel today, because the evidence we've heard would argue against that. Thank you.

11:40

Thank you, Huw. I see no other Members indicating. Minister, would you like to reply to the debate?

Thank you, Chair. I'm very grateful to Members for their remarks on the group. Just to reiterate that I ask the committee to support the Government amendments in this group, but to reject amendments 47 through 51, tabled by Janet Finch-Saunders. They don't recognise, as Huw's just said, the evidence presented by stakeholders to the committee, or the clear need for a system of direction. Just to reiterate, this is not an à la carte system where the developers get to choose whether to opt in or not; this would be opposite to the clarity that all stakeholders require. We have the power in the Bill to direct that applications below those thresholds can be considered a significant infrastructure project, called optional projects. A better term might be 'directed applications'.

I think we can all imagine—and, actually, we've had some examples today in the discussion—where medium-scale projects might nevertheless have national significance, or wider than a single community significance. So, it is very important to be able to take more criteria than simple thresholds into account, and that's why it's important not to have a system so rigid that it can be gamed. So, the 49.9 MW example is a very clear and good one, but there will be many others where it would be possible to just game the system if you were relying just on a standard threshold. So, I think it's very powerful to have the power to direct.

I do appreciate what Joel said about the capacity of local planning authorities—of course we take that into account. As I said very clearly in earlier evidence in this session to the committee, we are very keen to ensure that local planning authorities are not asked to tool up, so to speak, for very significant projects, which they are very unlikely to ever have to deal with again. So, again, a simple threshold criteria might not be sufficient to put the project into this category, and so we think that those amendments should be rejected and ours should be supported. Diolch, Chair.

Diolch, Weinidog. The question is that amendment 156 be agreed to. Does any Member object? There are no objections. Amendment 156 is, therefore, agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 157 (Julie James).

Amendment 157 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 157 in the name of the Minister. If amendment 157 is not agreed, amendment 184 falls. The question is that amendment 157 be agreed to. Does any Member object? There are no objections. Therefore, amendment 157 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 47 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 47 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

It's moved in the name of Janet Finch-Saunders. The question is that amendment 47 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We'll move to a vote, therefore. All those in favour of amendment 47, please show—one. All those against—five. Amendment 47, therefore, is rejected.

Gwelliant 47: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 47: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 48 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 48 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

The question is that amendment 48 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. All those in favour, therefore, of amendment 48, please show—one. All those against—five. Amendment 48 falls.

Gwelliant 48: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 48: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 49 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 49 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

If amendment 49 is agreed, amendment 158 falls. The question is that amendment 49 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] All those in favour of amendment 49, please show—one. All those against—five. Amendment 49, therefore, falls.

Gwelliant 49: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 49: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 158 (Julie James).

Amendment 158 (Julie James) moved.

I move amendment 158, in the name of the Minister. The question is that amendment 158 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. We'll therefore have a vote. All those in favour of amendment 158 please show. That's five. All those against—one. Amendment 158 is, therefore, agreed.

Gwelliant 158: O blaid: 5, Yn erbyn: 1, Ymatal: 0

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 158: For: 5, Against: 1, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 50 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 50 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

Thank you. The question is that amendment 50 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. We'll therefore vote. All those in favour of amendment 50, please show—one. All those against—five. Amendment 50 falls.

Gwelliant 50: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 50: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 51 (Janet Finch-Saunders).

Amendment 51 (Janet Finch-Saunders) moved.

If amendment 51 is agreed, amendment 1 falls. The question is that amendment 51 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We have an objection. All those, therefore, in favour of amendment 51, please show—one. All those against—five. Amendment 51, therefore, falls. 

11:45

Gwelliant 51: O blaid: 1, Yn erbyn: 5, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 51: For: 1, Against: 5, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected