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Roisin Willmott Planners as Changemakers

Dr Roisin Willmott OBE FRTPI is Director of Wales and Northern Ireland and Planning Aid England

Wales’ first Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, completed her seven year term on 31 January. This position is required by the Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015), a significant piece of legislation requiring all public bodies operating in Wales to operate in the interests of future generations.

Sophie speaking at a previous RTPI Wales Planning Conference


As a final act, Sophie Howe published her Future Generations Changemaker 100. Describing this as “a list of some of the amazing people that my team and I have been inspired by over the seven years since I took up post.”  The list was made up of a broad spectrum of individuals and groups from across society in Wales. I was pleased to be included on the list, along with fellow Chartered Planners Helen Lucocq from the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and Stuart Ingram from Welsh Government.  

What is a Changemaker? In her eyes, the Commissioner regards a ‘changemaker’, as someone who is demonstrating what happens when we put well-being first, work together and consider the long-term implications of our actions. Looking at factors like poverty, nature, health, education and skills, employment, transport, climate and housing in a joined-up way means that we can act now for a better future. Given this description, I am confident we could have come up with our own list 100+ Changemaker planners.

The Future Generations Act provides Wales with a legal framework to enable and encourage change for the better, not in terms of outputs, but in the outcomes delivered and importantly in how we achieve these. The Five Ways of Working established by the Act (long-term, prevention, integration, collaboration, and involvement), are the essential elements – if plans are made and actions taken by embedding these ways of working, then positive outcomes will flow more easily.

Making this paradigm shift organisationally and across the myriad of interests is no easy feat. This is particularly true in the context of significantly reduced budgets and high expectations, as captured though the Big Conversation report published in January.  It was clear from this work that with 75% of Local Planning Authority officers are overstretched, and so the capacity and mental bandwidth to enable this shift, is markedly diminished. 

Change is happening, including the Welsh Government putting in place strong integrated policy, and we must have confidence that the incremental steps will gather pace and lead to genuine long-term improvements.

The new Future Generations Commissioner, Derek Walker, will start work on 1 March for his seven-year term. We have already made contact with Derek and look forward to him starting in post and working with us on the built environment and planning.

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