Planning Aid Wales is proud to be supporting a research project to better understand the issues a wide variety of faith groups face in the planning process in Wales.
‘Planning for religious diversity in Wales’ is a project being delivered by Dr Richard Gale at Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning, with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council. Support is also being provided by Dr Andrew Rogers of the Department of Humanities at Roehampton University.
Wales is becoming increasingly religiously diverse, with non-Christian faith groups making up 2.7% of the Welsh population in the 2011 Census, up from 1.5% in 2001. This change is most notable in Swansea, Newport and Cardiff, which between them account for 64% of the overall growth in the non-Christian religious groups in Wales between 2001 and 2011.
This growth in diversity is leading to a growing need for spaces in which to congregate and worship among some faith groups. This presents important challenges for faith communities and planners; whether through changing the use of existing premises or constructing new purpose-built sites, the development of places of worship brings faith communities into contact with the planning system. Early engagement and increased understanding on both sides will increase the quality and timeliness of planning outcomes.
Related work on faith and planning in England, also conducted by the organising team, can be found here. Given the devolved nature of planning in Wales, there is a growing need to explore how these issues play out in the Welsh context.
Three events – ‘Faith and Planning Dialogues’ – have been organised for December 2018 and January 2019 in Swansea, Newport and Cardiff. The aim of each event is to address how planners and faith groups can engage with each other to ensure faith group needs are met, while maintaining consistency and quality in the application of, planning policy and principles. The preparation, delivery and facilitation of the events is being supported by both Planning Aid Wales and RTPI Cymru.
The first event took place in the Waterfront Museum in Swansea on 10th December, and was attended by representatives of a range of different faith and inter-faith groups, as well as planners from the City and County of Swansea. Planning Aid Wales supported the event by delivering a presentation on the principles of planning in practice, the importance of early engagement in planning policy development and understanding how planning applications are decided.
‘I am very happy to be working with Planning Aid Wales and RTPI Cymru on these important issues. These two organisations have a wealth of expertise in assisting communities in their interactions with planning, and being able to bring their perspectives into these Dialogues is proving hugely beneficial for all parties concerned, including faith groups.’
The event was welcomed by all participants, who concluded that ongoing dialogue between faith groups and planners is essential. Detailed findings will be published when the project is concluded.
Further events in Newport and Cardiff will take place on 14th and 24th January respectively. Each event will bring together faith group representatives, community and voluntary sector groups, local authority planners and academics; if you are interested in attending, please contact Dr Richard Gale on 029 208 75275 / [email protected].