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2016 Wales Planning Conference

The Wales Planning Conference 2016, held on Thursday 9th June, attracted a record number of delegates, from across Wales and beyond.

The topic for the conference, this year generously headlined sponsored by Savills, Francis Taylor Building and PPS Group, considered the new planning landscape following the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 and how to deliver planning positively at a time of reducing budgets.

The Conference was opened by the RTPI Cymru Chair, Peter Lloyd, who outlined the opportunities and the challenges that we face in Wales.

The morning session heard from David Rudlin, who inspired delegates with the proposals which won the Wolfson prize for Economics and encouraged us to think back to principles and find ways to achieve better quality development. Morag Ellis QC kept us thinking of the big issues and discussed the current and future situation with regard to determining large infrastructure projects.

We were very pleased to welcome Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs to the Conference so near to the start of her term of office. In her speech, the Cabinet Secretary set out her five asks of the planning system and those involved in delivering it, responding to the RTPI Cymru's 'asks' of the Government. The Cabinet Secretary's vision for planning sets challenges to everyone involved, including embedding the development plan system and importantly to valuing what planning can deliver in a truly sustainable Wales.

Delegates participated in a series of breakout seminars; (short precis of the seminars can be found on the links below):

The afternoon plenary session, chaired by RTPI Chief Executive, focused on delivery and creating a positive planning service. Keith Winter of Fife Council, shared the Scottish experience of developing local government service delivery. He highlighted that the quasi-judicial part of the planning system misses the point of what planning is about, in delivering quality places with services for communities. The Scottish experience has been that monitoring performance has had a marked benefit. He emphasised the need for planning to be at the top table in local government and encouraged planning teams to get involved in other activities, such as well-being plans.

Vincent Goodstadt used the experiences from elsewhere in the UK to highlight that in delivering the city agenda, planning is the tool to deliver. He encouraged the take up of strategic planning to provide a forward looking horizon and to embed place making within this framework.

Jen Heal from the Design Commission for Wales, highlighted the importance of site context analysis to maximise the value of a site, stressing the multiple benefits from a good site and context analysis. Support is available from the Commission with a new guide.

The final section of the Conference was the popular speed briefing on projects recognised in the Wales Planning Award. We firstly heard from the 2015 Winner of the Wales Planning Award - Regeneration of the Meritor Site in Cwmbran, delivered by Craig Mead; followed by a Highly Commended scheme - the Barry Pumphouse, delivered by Mark White of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Jon Hurley from WYG.

The Wales Planning Conference 2016 was sponsored by Savills, Francis Taylor Building and PPS Group with support from the Design Commission for Wales, Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and Welsh Government. Bilfinger GVA kindly sponsored the Conference Networking event on Wednesday 8th June.