Graham Stephens, Director for Town Planning, Masterplanning and Urban Design, comments on his experience as judge for the RTPI SW Awards for Planning Excellence 2017.
It was pleasure to recently attend the RTPI South West Awards for Planning Excellence in the grand surroundings of the Assembly Rooms in Bath. It was the second year Stride Treglown has sponsored the Awards and the first time we had been given the opportunity to participate as a member of the judging panel.
With 17 submissions received, the task of judging involved not an insignificant period of time. The quality of the submissions was excellent, covering everything from a small gin distillery conversion in Salcombe to the delivery of 11,500 homes for 20% of the British Army across Salisbury Plain, and plenty of cracking projects in between. It was inspiring to see so many different approaches to planning policy, decision making and spatial planning at work in the South West.
Two things stuck me when reviewing the entries. The first is that, at the heart of many projects, was the importance of collaboration and partnership, particularly between statutory agencies. Project successes were in large part secured by sharing common aims and objectives, identifying barriers to progress and working together to overcome these, sometimes under significant time pressures.
The second was the importance of not only raising awareness of the benefits generated by a well-conceived scheme, but also the role of the planning process, and the civic pride generated by the schemes. Indeed, some of the presentations to the panel involved vast number of enthusiastic local Ward and Parish Councillors, Community Land Trust members and project users. In no small part this pride was instigated by participation in the project from an early stage. The importance of timely and inclusive public consultation and stakeholder engagement shone through the submissions and the presentations.
So, congratulations go to those which were Commended, Highly Commended and the Category Winners. The overall SW RTPI Award for Planning Excellence went to a collaborative project led by BANES and involving Wessex Water, Environment Agency and the Canal and Rivers Trust. A phenomenal quantity and excellent quality of work was delivered that built a strong evidence base in support of a River Corridor study. The project costed and set out delivery plans for 20 projects and initiatives, informed by extensive public consultation and engagement, was a worthy winner and sets the bar for area-based joint working spatial strategies in the years to come.
We wish all those projects being considered for the RTPI National Awards the very best and look forward to continuing our sponsorship of the 2018 Regional Awards.