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Wales Planning Award for Excellence 2018

The Wales Planning Award recognises, applauds and publicises good planning practice in Wales. The contribution of planners and their use of the planning system is the crucial focus in making the award.

Winner: Flint Walks Housing Scheme, Flint

Submitted by: Flintshire County Council

Organisation's involved in the Scheme: Flintshire County Council, Wates Residential (appointed development partner), North East Wales Homes (private company established by the Council), Design Commission for Wales, Town and Community Councils.

Flint WalksThe project involved the replacement of a 1950s deck access maisonettes with 92 Council-built, affordable, energy efficient homes in the heart of Flint. It is the second scheme to be delivered by the Council's North East Wales Housing Company. A key feature of the scheme is that it has resulted in the integration of the site into Flint Town Centre when previously it had provided a physical and negative barrier between the town and locations beyond this site.

The site forms part of the broader Flint Town Centre Regeneration programme which is facilitating the development of major capital projects including a new Extra Care and Medical Centre which is starting to transform the town centre resulting in significant benefits to the local community and economy. The Flint Walks scheme itself has delivered badly needed affordable housing in the centre of Flint on a brownfield site which had previously remained unattractive to the private market without substantial subsidy.

There is clearly exceptional planner involvement throughout the whole scheme. Planning has been at the heart of ensuring that the layout, site suitability and overall design is the best it can be. For consistency purposes the Council dedicated a planner to deal with all schemes put forward by the new Housing Company, including this scheme – they are now broadening this to become a team approach. The Panel particularly liked the fact that the developer was located in with the planning team whilst the application was being put together and processed. Both the developer and the Planners agree that this saved a lot of time and resulted in an excellent scheme being approved. The developer said they have a new view of the planning system now and that this will have a lasting positive effect with regards to how they approach the planning process in the future. This is an excellent approach and indeed exemplar and should be repeated elsewhere. Planner involvement carried on right through implementation process.

It was obvious to the panel that there is a clear recognition for planning in delivering Council priorities. The Council recognises that the scheme tackles many strategic issues that the Council wanted to address. It provides Affordable homes when desperately needed. Previous housing on the site was poor quality, poor state of repair and local people did not want to live there and there was a disproportionate number of vacancies.

The scheme also helps tackle fuel poverty which was a real issue. The developer and the planners worked on adopting a 'fabric first' approach to ensure energy efficiency, hence reducing fuel poverty. It has been designed in such a way as to prevent anti-social behaviour - residents now respect this area and feel safe – all of this has resulted from the design and layout of the scheme borne from the early discussions between the developer and the planners.

The scheme has also resulted in fostering apprentices and building the skill base of the area. The apprentice scheme introduced by the developer as part of the development used young local people, gave them skills, now those people have remained in Flint and the skill base has improved.

The Design Commission for Wales provided very useful input into this scheme and have been highly commended by the developer, and the delivery team. They helped simplify the design which helped reduced costs.

There has been true community involvement from project inception of the masterplan for this part of Flint, influencing the layout which reflected the original Edwardian street layout – which is particularly reflected by the location of the open areas, the use of old street names and original street patterns. Permeability was key to the community - they asked for there to be a wide open link to the town – so that this housing area now becomes part of the town and not a physical barrier as in the past – this resulted in wide boulevard referred to as The Walk. It is clear that this scheme has matured as a result of true involvement rather than consultation – reflected in the fact that no planning objections were received from the community at the planning application stage. This is an exemplar of community and business involvement throughout – with the drop in centre at the Church now having carried on long after the completion of the works. The scheme has clearly re-invigorated a community and has created a sense of ownership within the community for future of this part of Flint.

"Why do we enter planning as a profession? A main driver is to help create better places. The Flint Walks Scheme is a better place."

This project has demonstrated how planning can positively work to deliver a council's priorities of preventing homelessness, reducing fuel poverty and improving living conditions.

Planners through this scheme have clearly aided in reinvigorating a sense of place and sense of community at this location.

Highly Commended: Yr Ysgwrn, Snowdonia National Park

Submitted by: Snowdonia National Park Authority

Organisations involved in the Scheme: Snowdonia National Park Authority, Purcell UK and Cadw.

Yr YsgwrnThe scope of this project was to conserve and develop Yr Ysgwrn, home of Hedd Wyn, one of Wales' most sensitive and significant cultural sites into a sustainable visitor destination. Hedd Wyn one of Wales' most well-known poets was killed at battle and was posthumously awarded the bardic chair at the National Eisteddfod 1917.

The development involved the adaptation to the original home, the provision of a new car park, a new agricultural barn and subsequently the removal of a modern barn and extension of the Beudy Llwyd to form Yr Ysrwrn's welcome building.

The challenge here was conserve the existing site and its listed building, its historic and cultural significance and remarkable sense of place and develop a world class 21st Century visitor experience that did not have that 'mickey mouse' effect.

There was a strong involvement of both Cadw and planners, from start to finish. The conservation input was clearly instrumental to the whole process. The application of a conservation management plan approach and options appraisal is to be commended. This approach preceded the need for Heritage Impact Assessments, which have now been introduced. There was considerable front loading that took place prior to the final submission of the listed building consent and planning application. A large part of this was in the form of engagement with the family, local people and businesses with regards the various options. Which all predated the need to undertake a Pre Application Consultation and is therefore exemplar.

Its National Park location meant that the Team wanted to show an exemplar solution to what is possible in a National Park by combining traditional with modern. The embedding of the development into the landscape was key to its success. It hunkers into the landscape rather than sitting in it or on it. The car park cannot be seen from the site or from a distance, due to careful location, clever use of natural contours and additional planting. The modern agricultural buildings were removed and a new agricultural building was provided elsewhere on the site, away from the history core but in itself a design credit. It has a live grass roof and like the car park it hunkers into the landscape. A state of the art shed in terms of its aesthetics.

People's experience has clearly been at the heart of the design of this project, not an add-on. The greatest challenge in this respect being access to the first floor of the house, particular as it was Grade II*. The project team were keen to avoid a managed approach, so that it is truly accessible to all. The final result, a lift in the side cart house was the least intrusive in term so of works to the listed building and has resulted in the house being fully accessible to all.

Gaining and maintaining the trust of the family and local community was and remains key to the success of this project. The family had promised to 'keep the door open' and people had been visiting for years – though without full access to the house. The Community remain involved today by volunteering at the cafe, children having classes at Yr Ysgwrn, annual open days – there is a true sense of community ownership.

The finished product demonstrates that a working farm, a listed building and tourism can coincide.

It now brings money into the local area. The feedback with regards its visitor destination appeal is exceptionally good. It is an excellent example of rural diversification, two uses, historic/cultural and modern day agriculture working side by side.

Commended - The Jennings, Porthcawl

Submitted by: WYG and Bridgend County Borough Council

Organisations Involved in the Scheme: Bridgend County Borough Council, ABA Holdings Ltd (Developer), WYG, Austin Partnership, Ellis Williams Architects& Cadw

The JenningsThis scheme has secured a sustainable use for a well-known but under-used Grade II listed building, the former abandoned Jennings Warehouse. The building has been redeveloped to provide a restaurant, cafe and live work units, to form an active hub on the Porthcawl seafront.  The project's ethos was to bring this building back into active use for locals and visitors alike and since its opening in September 2017 it is now also providing a catalyst for future regeneration of this area.

The Jennings is a good example of collaborative working between the developer, project team, the Council and Stakeholders. Of particular challenge was the listed status of the Jennings coupled with the neighbouring operational nature of the RNLI Lifeboat Centre. A good working relationship was therefore essential and was established early on between the developer, the Harbour Master and the RNLI.

The existence of a development brief provided a clear starting point for this scheme. There were also several iterations in terms of design and potential uses before the project team settled on the final option. There was significant pre application discussion between Bridgend County Borough Council and Cadw. The Civic Trust were also heavily involved.

The pre application engagement ensured a smooth relationship between the Listed Building Consent and the planning application process.

This is a good example of bringing heritage buildings back into sustainable use in a way that keeps their future use flexible. The development is considered good practice and demonstrates that Listed Building status need not deter development or result in underuse.