Leaders rewarded for promoting planning

Two planners in Wales have won a prestigious award for highlighting the importance of planning as a profession, writes Roisin Willmott.

RTPI president Martin Willey's initiative to search for the future leaders of the planning world is a positive move. Planners have always faced challenges and the global economic climate is demanding regardless of specialism or sector.

Without real faces representing planning, the role of the profession is not always highlighted in the way it should be. Architects, journalists and entrepreneurs are often recognised for their work but how many planners become household names?

Willey presented the Today's and Tomorrow's Leaders Awards to Rob Thomas and Victoria Abraham at an event at the National Museum Cardiff. Both came from Vale of Glamorgan Council but they were up against stiff competition from local planning authorities, academia and the private sector.

Today's Leader Thomas was the lead officer in the bid to bring the Defence Technical College project to St Athan. Work over the past two years culminated in the submission of the most significant planning applications in Wales in recent times. The scheme was granted permission in September.

Over the past 18 months Thomas has taken a lead role on behalf of the Planning Officers Society for Wales, working with RTPI Cymru on a training programme for Welsh planners in partnership with colleagues from other organisations.

Tomorrow's Leader Abraham is the council's lead officer for planning obligations. Since coming to post in April 2007 she has led on the production of planning obligations supplementary planning guidance, developed effective working relationships with council service areas and set up protocols for consultation with members. The council's improved performance in this area is evidence of Abraham's approach.

She has also been involved as the Welsh Local Government Association representative on the Welsh Assembly Government steering group which contributed to the recently published guidance on the use of section 106 agreements during the downturn.

Willey declared: "Thomas and Abraham are worthy winners. It is exciting to see a new generation of talented planners coming through. It is credit to Vale of Glamorgan Council that two of its staff have been recognised in this way."

The council's chief executive John Maitland Evans, also a member of the institute, congratulated the winning pair. "This is a fantastic double for the council. The future of planning is in safe hands with the commitment and professionalism of such people," he said.

Nominating projects and people for awards is a way of promoting planning and helping others understand what we do. It is also an important learning resource for others by promoting good practice and preventing repetition of failures.

Dr Roisin Willmott is national director of RTPI Cymru.

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