Planning Aid Wales celebrates 40 years

Planning Aid Wales celebrated its 40th Anniversary at a special event held in the Senedd this October.

Julie James AM, Minister for Housing and Local Government, hosted the event and delivered an excellent keynote speech emphasising the importance of community engagement in the planning system.

Highlighting that Welsh Government was proud to have funded Planning Aid Wales for the past 15 years, Julie also explained that “Welsh Government was looking to re-examine the role of consultation, engagement and participation in the planning system and would like Planning Aid Wales to support this exciting journey.”

The event brought together the organisation’s founders, volunteers and friends. Richard and Sue Essex, who were amongst the founders and early volunteers for the South Wales Planning Aid Service, regaled the audience with nostalgic tales of establishing the service whilst raising a young family and dealing with planning enquiries from their kitchen table.

Richard and Sue highlighted the need for members of the public to have access to a friendly and impartial planning advice service 40 years ago, a need which very much still exists today. They also recognised the value of the proactive training and project work Planning Aid Wales delivers to help raise the capacity of communities to have their say on planning matters.

Ian Stevens, Chair of Planning Aid Wales, highlighted some of the organisation’s recent successes, explaining we had helped 5,672 people to understand and engage with the planning system in the past year. Ian also launched the organisation’s new video and written guidance for Gypsies and Travellers in Wales and emphasised the good work the organisation was doing on raising awareness and helping community councils to get to grips with Place Plans.

Ian also said “Of course, none of this could have happened without the support of our dedicated volunteers, Directors and staff teams over the past 40 years, and I would like to again express my heartfelt thanks to them all”

Concluding the event, James Davies, Chief Executive of Planning Aid Wales said “Our helpline, which started out as telephone advice, will always be a core part of what we do and we will continue to recruit volunteer planners from across Wales to help us deliver this service. We are also scoping out innovative approaches to facilitate engagement – as well as our work on Place Plans, we are exploring opportunities for digital engagement to spread the word and effectively engage more people in the planning process.”

The reception culminated in a drink’s reception where Planning Aid Wales staff, Board Members, past and present volunteers, key partner organisations and friends enjoyed time reminiscing about their involvement with Planning Aid Wales during its successful 40 years.

Planning Aid Wales is a charity that supports community engagement in planning in Wales. The organisation was founded in 1978 by planner volunteers from the South Wales branch of the Royal Town Planning Institute and became an independent registered charity and limited company in 1990. With funding from Welsh Government and the ongoing support of volunteers, Planning Aid Wales provides a range of services including a free planning advice helpline, a wide range of online planning guidance, training courses and events and community engagement support services.

If you would like to make a donation to Planning Aid Wales, click here.

For more information about volunteering with Planning Aid Wales, click here.

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