By Efa Lois Thomas
On the 2nd of March 2017, Hatch members came together with Young Planners Cymru for an event at DCFW that provided and opportunity to explore the potential of the National Development Framework (NDF). It was particularly interesting for me, as I come from an architectural background, not a planning one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was interesting to think that the preparation of this plan could have real impact on what happens on the ground in Wales in the next 20 years.
The presentation began with an explanation of the National Development Framework, how Wales needs an overarching vision for planning, how we want to create change in our communities and what makes a good place. We also discussed how Planning Policy Wales will be reviewed and integrated with the NDF.
We then split into two workshop groups, one discussing the National Development Framework and the other thinking about the objectives of planning and sustainable places for Planning Policy Wales.
The National Development Framework workshop considered the 20-year national development plan (which will replace the Wales Spatial Plan) and the key issues that face Wales now and in 20 years’ time . Some very interesting ideas were discussed including: the inherent potential in linking the NDF to the Well-being of Future Generations Act and Active Travel Act, how large nationally important projects might be reflected and, on a smaller scale, how every town and village could have safe routes for people to walk to amenities, and how the focus should shift to more sustainable travel methods, such as cycling or trams.
We also discussed how the character of some towns is being slowly eroded by the impact of national retail chains, resulting in the closure of local independent businesses and the loss of a sense of ‘place’.
The potential for Wales to increase and improve its tourism industry, through better marketing and planning emerged as a key theme. We discussed how some towns outside of Cardiff have tourists commuting from Cardiff to get there, just because there aren’t enough hotels in the capital. We also considered how the protection of historic Welsh place names could potentially become part of the NDF as they are something completely unique to Wales, which is a perfect opportunity for marketing tourism.
On the subject of decarbonisation, we discussed exciting opportunities presented by the tidal lagoon projects, as well as how the devolution of control over natural resources could affect Wales’ carbon output. It was also raised that, in an ideal world, there should be financial incentives to reinsulate existing housing stock as the ineffective use of energy greatly affects the amount of carbon that is used.
We also briefly explored the potential of re-wilding Wales’ farming landscapes and the impact of changes following departure from the EU.
After half an hour, we swapped workshop groups to go to a workshop on Planning Policy Wales.
This was much more focused on the potential of what the Planning Policy Wales specifically could do to rectify the problems that Wales currently faces.
We discussed how planning should operate, for example, whether putting planning notices on lampposts is an outdated custom. The issue that current demographics that are usually consulted in planning are either those over the age of 65 or school children was raised and we considered what could be done to rectify this.
A complicated issue that emerged was how to give a town or area that arises from a new development ‘soul’ and ‘community’. We discussed how some areas on the outskirts of Cardiff only have two supermarkets, a school and a few housing complexes and what could be done to make this place better.
We then had a discussion about why people wouldn’t want to live in certain areas, and what makes people feel safe in a particular area. I was personally reminded of Jane Jacob’s theory in ‘The Life and Death of Great American Cities’, about having eyes on the street, and people feeling ownership of the street. We explored what makes us personally feel safe and what may deter us from walking somewhere, but feel perfectly comfortable in a car or a bus. We then considered whether improving the safety of some areas would make people want to live there.
The evening concluded with a brief Q&A session with the representatives from Welsh Government’s Planning Division. It was an enlightening evening and it was very exciting to see what could potentially be shaped into the Welsh landscape over the next 20 years.
Efa Lois Thomas is at Part 1 Architectural Assistant at Austin-Smith:Lord and Winner of the National Eisteddfod Design Commission for Wales Architecture Scholarship 2016.