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Wales Planning Award 2014

Six projects were shortlisted for this year's RTPI Cymru Planning Awards. The projects included physical schemes, aids and guides to good practice and community consultation. Details of all of the shortlisted schemes can be found in the 2014 Awards Brochure.

The judging panel comprised of Huw Evans, Roger Tanner and Mike Cuddy.

Winner: Ysgol Craig y Deryn, Snowdonia National Park Authority

The first thing that struck the judges was the manner in which the development sat within the National Park landscape and how both the design and choice of materials were successfully integrated into the setting which embraced the low rise of the slate roofed village and the mountains in the distance. The involvement of the Design Commission for Wales was noted.

Detailed design and layout of the external areas illustrated how the scheme had achieved its BREEAM Excellent and EPC 'A' rating. There had been extensive community engagement in the choice of sites for the new school and this had proved to be a very controversial and politically sensitive issue following the proposed closure of four local schools in this strongly Welsh speaking area. However despite the large number of objections which were maintained up until its completion the school and the quality of the facilities it provides has proved to be an overwhelming success.

The project was an excellent example of the difficulties facing a planning authority in overcoming a substantial amount of community objection and political sensitivity by delivering a high quality socially important scheme in a very sensitive landscape.

It was considered that the Craig Y Deryn scheme, which scored highly on all of the relevant assessment criteria, was a worthy outright winner of the 2014 Wales Planning Award.

Highly Commended - Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay – pre-application public consultation and engagement, Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd (TLP)

This scheme involved an extensive consultation programme using innovative consultation techniques which have been rarely applied in the planning process in Wales, including an interactive virtual tour of the proposed development which could be modified for high or low tide and the time of day or night.

The consultation involved communicating a very complex large scale and nationally significant project to a wide range of consultees and community groups besides meeting stringent engagement expectations under the UNECE Aarhus Convention providing an exemplar for future projects of this kind. There was clear evidence of the consultation responses influencing the final design of the scheme. Whilst it was not possible to assess the physical impact of the scheme the process and methodology adopted was impressive. Some elements were clearly transferrable although the level of resources available would be beyond most projects.

The quality and innovation of TLP's consultation and community engagement was very impressive and worthy of a highly commended award.

Commended - Exploring your town, Civic Trust for Wales

The toolkit was a good example of a 'bottom up' and user friendly approach to helping local communities identify the unique character of their areas. The end result would assist detailed planning and design determinations. The exercise also proved to be a catalyst for improved working relationships between an informed public and planning conservation officers.

Feedback from the Abergavenny group, used as an example, was very positive and there is significant potential for its transferability to help other communities shape and influence their towns and villages.

The Civic Trust for Wales' Toolkit was a very legible and useable community tool to encourage local engagement in defining the distinctive character of towns and villages.

Commended - Treharris Town Centre, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough

The scheme had a good element of community involvement in its inception stages and is an integral part of the Taff Bargoed Valley Regeneration Programme. The general environment is one of a depressed area where individual schemes have been implemented to introduce physical enhancement and public confidence in the town.

The quality of the finished scheme is good using local materials and incorporating local historical images into the built fabric. Imaginative use of LED lighting and embedded artwork were innovative elements of this public space. The manner in which the scheme has utilised the topography is a good example to inform the design of other schemes. The project enhances the character of the conservation area and hopefully should encourage the continued improvement of other buildings in this key site in the heart of the town. There was some evidence through proactive retailers' and a town centre partnership for example of this beginning to occur.

There was some concern as to the frequency of its use as an events stage. Although an action plan hoped to address this. The principal space is laid out as a short term car park, necessitating a proliferation of signage to control usage.

Treharris was a good example of the commitment and quality necessary to stimulate regeneration in a very deprived area.