Elwyn Thomas, Chief Executive, Planning Aid Wales
Elwyn explained how community engagement network events respond to the Positive Planning agenda that seeks to make planning more ‘energetic’ and community focused. At present, from a community perspective, connections between the ‘gate keepers’ of the planning system (local planning authorities, Government etc), the development industry and local communities need to be much better. These events are therefore designed as learning environments for communities, planning authorities and representatives of the development industry to understand different perspectives, share knowledge and create new ideas for improving how we might undertake planning in the future.
Neil Hemington, Chief Planner, Welsh Government
Neil explained how the planning system needs to regain and enhance its community focus. The Planning (Wales) Act places a greater emphasis on community engagement in planning decisions; Place Plans echo these ambitions. Neil stressed the need for equity between groups when preparing Place Plans and the importance that they do not become the preserve of affluent areas but are also prepared for deprived areas too. Place Plans should reflect the aspirations of the local community whilst also making synergies with the local planning authority’s aspirations in Local Development Plan and Wellbeing Plan and will be given weight in planning decisions by being adopted as supplementary planning documents. Neil suggested that Place Plan preparation can be aligned with Local Development Plan reviews and can inform and connect with the financial mechanisms in planning such as Community Infrastructure Levy, Section 106.
James Harland, Planning Policy Manager, Conwy County Borough Council
James provided a local planning authority perspective by explaining how Conwy Council’s approach to Place Plans reflects its approach to community engagement as part a wider strategy for integrating Local Development Plan review, preparation of a Wellbeing Plan and enhancement of existing work by the Council on Locality Plans. The Abergele Placmaking Plan seeks to garner ‘community ownership’ over significant growth identified for the town by the LDP process. In the future, the approach to place plans will be rolled out for other areas of Conwy where growth is planned.
Robert A Robinson, Town Clerk, Welshpool Town Council.
Providing a town council perspective, Robert emphasised the importance of having the right team in place and the commitment of the town and community council behind you when embarking on preparing a plan. Robert stressed the need to understand how your ‘place’ works as part of the plan preparation and not to be afraid of taking ownership of its preparation whilst still liaising with your local planning authority. Publicise and consult widely but keep in mind your audience and be fair and transparent in your decision making were also key points to consider.
Samantha Roberts, Clerk and Finance Officer, Mold Town Council.
Samantha presented a community perspective from Mold. Working with Flintshire Council, Mold Town Council wanted to prepare a Town Plan that brought together a variety of objectives from previous consultations and studies (e.g. Cittaslow Mold) that could inform projects for the town and later inform Flintshire’s Local Development Plan. Samantha stressed: the importance of having a diverse and representative mix of people on a steering group for the Town Plan; the importance for community ownership over the vision and objectives helped by community consultation; and, its important role to inform decisions on how to grow Mold in the future.
Amanda Spence, Design Commission for Wales
Amanda provided an overview of how a resource developed by DCFW and Coombs Architects could be useful to local planning authorities and local communities thinking about preparing a Place Plan. She explained how the Shape My Town toolkit could be used effectively to help explore and understand different elements of a place that could then be arranged meaningfully in a plan for an area. Using examples, from Abergavenny and Ynysybwl, Amanda set out how DCFW had assisted these communities through Shape My Town designed workshops to help develop thinking on preparing a plan for these areas.
The aim of this group session was to understand what’s working, what isn’t and how things can be improved. Having listened to the speakers, each group was invited to take a different perspective and develop answers to a specific questions.