SWT Planning Officers meet with RTPI President
08 August 2022 : Council news, Planning and development
Planning Officers from Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council were invited to meet with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) President, Tim Crawshaw, as part of his tour of the UK to find out more about the challenges and opportunities faced by local council planners.
The meeting took place at Somerset County Cricket Ground, where Mr Crawshaw received a presentation featuring plans to drive quality design in Taunton Garden Town, guidance on tackling the Climate Emergency, and the impact of recent guidance over unacceptable amounts of phosphates in the Somerset Levels and Moors on local development, where it is hoped the RTPI can help lobby central government to unlock much needed housing in the district. Discussions were also held about the new Unitary Council for Somerset, resourcing, skills and budgets.
Mr Crawshaw said: “Somerset West and Taunton Council hosted a very insightful meeting that reflected the challenges and opportunities faced by local council planners. Despite challenges that all public sector planners would recognise in terms of resources and external forces such as nutrient neutrality and local government reorganisation, the dedicated and innovative team embodied best practice and resilience – awesome teamwork and leadership.”
The invitation followed a commendation awarded at this year’s RTPI South West Awards for the Council’s work in producing new planning and placemaking guidance in response to the climate emergency.
The guidance, titled ‘Climate Positive Planning’, was Commended for the awards’ ‘Best Plan’ (Excellence in Plan Making Practice) category, in recognition for its role as a swift and flexible tool through which the Councils’ prior declarations of Climate and Ecological Emergencies have been effectively integrated into planning policy.
Although the document is intended as an interim measure until a future Local Plan is implemented by the new Unitary Council for Somerset, it provides detailed guidance on how planning applications are expected to demonstrate climate-friendly construction methods and design by way of interpretation of adopted planning policies, national guidance and legislation. It also forms a key action within SWT’s Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience (CNCR) Action Plan and supports the countywide approved Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy.
The Results for the South West region were published via the RTPI’s South West Awards webpage with the winners and top scoring entries invited to an awards ceremony, also held at Somerset County Cricket Ground.
Mr Crawshaw added: “Developed in-house with limited resources the Commended Climate Positive Planning guidance document, in advance of the emerging Local Plan is making it clear to developers about the Council's expectations and demonstrates commitment to addressing the Climate Emergency”.
Cllr Mike Rigby, Executive Member for Planning and Transport, said: “I’m thrilled to learn our Climate Positive Planning guidance was Commended at the South West RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence and I applaud the efforts of our Officers and Councillors in producing it in a short timeframe and on a small budget. Winning in these prestigious Awards is a clear demonstration that we’re committed to reversing the effects of climate change through sustainable development and placemaking, which offers a higher standard of living for our residents, and the guidance will no doubt pave the way for more robust policy in the future”.
The RTPI South West Chair 2022, Julie O’Rourke said: “I am delighted by the broad range of inspirational entries that we received for this year’s Awards. Celebrating planning excellence allows us to reflect, reward and learn from exemplar plans, projects and people as we move forward in transforming our communities, protecting and enhancing the environment, creating successful economies and delivering exceptional places. Congratulations to all of this year’s entries that were shortlisted, particularly those that have been judged as Winners, Highly Commended or Commended.”
The regional winners will go on to compete in the national finals which will be announced at an awards ceremony in central London on 30 November.