06/09/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/09/2021 10:10
Taking place as a virtual event this year, it focused on how the sector can respond to the challenges faced by the country as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wales has been tested by many complex place-based issues in the past, including a decline in economic growth, changes to the high streets, poverty and inequality, as well as severe weather events and, of course, the delivery of quality housing in the right locations.
RTPI President, Wei Yang, opened the proceedings with a talk that focused on climate change and the function of planning in securing a more sustainable future for Wales. He concluded that 'planners are leaders and a positive driving force to help communities navigate change and prepare for an uncertain future. Planners play a crucial role in making connections between plan-making and place-making.'
The morning plenary session focused on Welsh towns of the future, with speakers from Cardiff University, Institute of Welsh Affairs, Flintshire County Council and Rhonda Cynon Taf County Borough Council (RCTCBC).
Simon Gale, Director of Prosperity and Development at RCTCBC, said that coming out of this difficult period following the pandemic, he is convinced we are to see a renaissance on our high streets. He commented 'with so much uncertainty still in the economy, it is really important that the public sector takes a lead in shaping the transition of our high streets.' Simon went onto say that the Welsh Government has a strong funding programme in place under the Transforming Towns agenda and the significant borrowing powers with low interest rates. He said 'by investing now, we can create the confidence for the private sector to follow on behind us'. The sector will have been reassured by such positive aspirations and mechanisms in place.
Meryl Lewis, associate director at Savills, was one of the guest speakers taking part in an afternoon breakout session on balancing tourism with the needs of communities. Meryl looked at the issue of balancing the economic benefits of people owning holiday/second homes in Wales with the pressure this puts on the affordability of homes for local people and the knock-on effects for small rural communities. Meryl also discussed recent housing trends following the Covid-19 pandemic ,which have prompted an increase in the number of people moving out of cities and into rural communities, which could be an opportunity for revival.
Portia Banwell, a senior planner for Savills Cardiff, said:
'Although the conference was virtual for a second year, there were many opportunities for networking. Savills ran an 'expo booth' where delegates could drop in and take part in discussions on planning and the built environment. Overall, it was an inspiring and thought-provoking event with positive discussion on how the sector can revitalise the country post-pandemic.'
The Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, was due to speak at the event but technical difficulties meant she was unable to join.