Welsh Government consults on proposals to set national milestones for Wales

In 2016, Welsh Government set 46 national indicators to track progress in achieving the 7 well-being goals in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. The new national milestones will set out its expectation of this progress and it is consulting on:

·         the criteria for choosing national milestones

·         the national indicators against which it will set national milestones

·         changes to the existing national indicators

Welsh Government is asking: How do we assist Welsh Ministers in measuring a nation’s progress?  And is gathering views on a refined number of national indicators, including:

·         Percentage of adults with qualifications at the different levels of National Qualifications Framework;

·         Gross disposable household income per head;

·         Percentage of people who can speak Welsh; and

·         Percentage who feel able to influence decisions affecting their local area.

These indicators, along with others listed in the report, will inform the creation of national milestones for Wales, allowing Ministers to understand and monitor progress in achieving the goals of the Well-being Act.

Of particular interest to those of us operating in the built environment and construction sector is National Indicator 23: Percentage who feel able to influence decisions affecting their local area.

With public consultation now a statutory requirement of the planning process in Wales for major developments, and involvement and collaboration two of the five ways of working in the Well-being Act, this indicator reaffirms the importance of community and stakeholder involvement in the development and delivery of infrastructure, housing and other major projects across Wales - to ensure that local stakeholders’ have been effectively consulted and their comments taken on board.

The next step following the consultation period will be to establish the national milestones. While these are not yet finalised, what is apparent is the acknowledgement that change is necessary across all sectors and industries in order to achieve the goals outlined in the Well-being Act.

To find out more and participate in the consultation, go to: https://beta.gov.wales/measuring-our-nations-progress. The deadline for comments is 19 April 2019.

Follow us on Twitter @Grasshopper_UK or visit us at http://www.grasshopper-comms.co.uk/ for any updates on planning, policy and the built environment sector.

Lewis Clark, Account Executive.

Delivery of infrastructure projects fit for Future Generations of Wales

The Transporting Our Future Generations Report (https://www.ceca.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Transport-Our-Future-Generations-Report_Final.pdf) by the Civil Engineers Contractors Association (CECA) Wales in conjunction with The Future Generations Commissioners Office was published last week (5 February).

The Report highlights the need for both the public and private sector to work differently in the development and delivery of infrastructure projects – now and for future generations.

While the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is well-defined for the public sector, it has left many in the private sector wondering how it affects them and, in particular, its involvement in public sector development projects.

The Report considers how the private sector can support the public sector in delivering on the 7-wellbeing goals and the 5-ways of working in the Act and sets out a 5-Point Action Plan, which is summarised below:

1.       Public Procurement: base procurement on the principles of the Act rather than the initial price alone. It argues that we must re-model the public and private sector relationship on the basis of the 5-ways of working as set out in the Act.

2.       Strategic Vision: develop greater clarity on what we need infrastructure to do for us as a nation based on the 7-wellbeing goals and the 5-ways of working.

3.       Funding: move to minimum 3-year funding programmes for public sector infrastructure clients to enable longer term planning and greater certainty for supply chain.

4.       Justifying Investment: base investment decisions on the 7-wellbeing goals and the 5-ways of working rather than solely on economic criteria.

5.       Cultural Change: develop and implement an education or awareness campaign across the sector to promote the wellbeing goals, the way of working and emerging best practices in the infrastructure.

The Report presents the need for a different approach to the infrastructure development process and sets out an ambitious Action Plan that promotes a more collaborative working relationship between the public and private sector in the delivery of infrastructure projects across Wales.

It will be interesting to see how this is achieved with the multiple levels of governance in Wales and pressures on the private sector, especially in a time of economic uncertainty.

To keep up to date with policy, infrastructure and planning, follow us on Twitter @Grasshopper_UK or visit our webpage: http://www.grasshopper-comms.co.uk/

Lewis Clark, Account Executive.

Constructing a better future for Wales

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The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 & The Built Environment Sector in Wales conference on 24 January brought together the public and private sector to consider the impacts of long-term development and how to create a sustainable legacy for future generations that protects the planet.  It also posed the question: should the construction industry in Wales be considered the 45th body to sign up to the Act?

Those attending were given a series of thought-provoking presentations on a range of topics to win hearts and minds – from living with and building for a sustainable future under a changing climate to breaking the vicious circle of blame and building the business case for developing sustainable buildings, environments and places.

We were then invited to consider the seven well-being goals from the perspective of the construction industry and how we could achieve these goals.  Each group presented a range of innovative and aspirational solutions, but what was clear, is that it will take a shift change, with the public and private sector working together to achieve a common goal.

In response to the difficulties experienced trying to effectively engage local communities, Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, stressed the need to be willing to invest in a long-term commitment to an iterative process that provides feedback on how people have influenced change.

It will be interesting to see how the construction industry responds to the Act, but it’s clear that over time there will be a need and an expectation that new developments in Wales are mindful of the well-being goals.

Jo Hatton Jones, Director

One Month In: Energy and Housing in Wales Under Mark Drakeford's Leadership

The Senedd once again opened its doors to the public on Wednesday, 23 January and I made the trip to Cardiff Bay to listen to what the Ministers for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and Housing and Local Government had to say.  

The Environment and Energy

Lesley Griffiths AM has held the portfolio of Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs since 2016, retaining her position under Mark Drakeford’s first cabinet re-shuffle as First Minister.

Air pollution was a key issue this week with John Griffiths, AM for Newport, asking what steps are being taken to reduce it, particularly in urban areas across South Wales. In response, Lesley Griffiths stated that a Clean Air consultation will be carried out this year, in a bid to drive down air pollution levels and work towards a greener Wales. Conservative AM David Melding then queried whether Wales should be looking to the strict WHO air quality recommendations as an alternative to those of the EU.

Questions were then asked about the Welsh Government’s Energy Service, which was launched in October last year in a bid to help realise Wales’ decarbonisation ambitions and support renewable and sustainable forms of energy. While the Service has garnered support from across the political spectrum, Members are concerned with the failed sustainable energy projects for Wales over the past decade. With Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon scrapped and the Wylfa Nuclear Project currently put on hold, Members now appear to be looking to more manageable, community-based energy projects as a means of solidifying Wales’ sustainable position and building on the Well-being of the Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

Housing

The newly appointed Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James AM, has recently had planning added to her portfolio and will have her hands full tackling this complex and challenging aspect of her role.

Mark Reckless, AM for South Wales East, asked the Minister about the new Self-Build Wales Programme, which has received £40 million in EU funding. James, who said she is coming to grips with her new role, explained the complexity of Self-Build Wales and stated that the aim is for the programme to provide opportunities for people to build their own homes on land allocated by Local Authorities. Individuals will have to apply for a ‘plot passport’, which will be secured by a 25% deposit on the plot cost.

The Minister then faced a flurry of questions on the planning system, with Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP), opening proceedings by asking whether a review of the effectiveness of the planning system in Wales is needed; adding that it is not responsive enough to the needs of communities and local people. Following this, questions were raised about the ability of Local Authorities to produce strategic and effective Local Development Plans (LDPs). Members stated that many residents felt that LDPs are turning Wales’ cities into large housing developments that do not take into consideration environmental concerns, as well infrastructure and community services; questioning whether more needs to be done to support Councils. Mick Antoniw AM (Labour), Member for Pontypridd, also asked how the planning process can be improved to better assess the impact of multiple housing developments in one locality and was referred to the recently published Edition 10 of Planning Policy Wales, which emphasises placemaking for housing developments and Local Development Plans.

There are clearly a range of issues and challenges ahead,  however, what was also apparent is cross-party commitment across to tackle these challenges head on, deliver on creating a greener and more sustainable Wales and working to ensure the transparent levels of governance that have been created since devolution in 1997 are upheld.

It will be interesting to see what changes are made to the planning system in Wales and how the public sector’s commitment to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 will translate to the private sector.  

Follow us on Twitter and Linkedin for our insights and updates on energy, housing and planning:

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www.grasshopper-comms.co.uk

Lewis Clark, Account Executive

Mark Drakeford wins the Welsh Labour Leadership election with a promise of 21st Century Socialism

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The result from the last few months of hustings, campaigning and policy promises came to a head this week, and as expected, Mark Drakeford secured victory as the new Leader of the Welsh Labour Party.

The Cardiff West AM took 46.9% of first preference votes, while his opposition candidates, Vaughan Gething and Baroness Morgan took 30.8% and 22.3% respectively. With no candidate reaching 50%, Baroness Morgan was eliminated and second-preference votes of her supporters were redistributed. In the final totals, Prof Drakeford beat Mr Gething by 53.9% to 41.4%.

After nine years as First Minister, Carwyn Jones will stand down following his final First Minister Questions on Tuesday, with Prof Drakeford expected to be confirmed as First Minister on Wednesday.

Prof Drakeford has represented the Cardiff West Assembly constituency since 2011, holding a number of prominent positions within Welsh Government during that period, including his current role as Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Drawing on his experience working under former First Minister Rhodri Morgan as well as his commitment to Jeremy Corbyn, Prof Drakeford launched a comprehensive leadership manifesto last month entitled ‘21st Century Socialism’ setting out his key policy objectives.

So what does this mean for the future of Wales? Will we see the beginning of a 21st century socialism - or will it be business as usual for Welsh Labour?

From a planning, regeneration and infrastructure perspective, there are a number of key policy commitments of interest that could have significant future impacts:

·       Energy: Prof Drakeford has proposed a large surge in Wales’ relationship with renewable and sustainable energy. In his manifesto he outlines that investment in renewable energy must be seen as a bid to boost the Welsh economy, adding that Wales must make use of the abundance of wind, water and waves available.   His pledges include re-examining the case for a new Welsh Energy Mutual (based on the Welsh Water model), support for the Tidal Lagoon project, as well as setting up an independent commission to advise on nuclear power.

·       Housing and Regeneration: Prof Drakeford has stated that he would appoint a Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for housing and allied matters, allowing housing to be represented at the top table. He adds to this that he would press ahead with plans for a vacant land tax, tackling land banking and allowing for the release of land for housing and regeneration developments.  He has also committed to aligning housing and planning responsibilities, allowing councils to work together more flexibly across boundaries in a bid to provide the housing Welsh people need.

·       Transport and the M4 relief road: Prof Drakeford has expressed a strong desire to tackling M4 congestion in South Wales, although he is yet to commit to the M4 relief road – although this decision will now fall to him (and not Carwyn Jones as previously anticipated).  Additionally, Prof Drakeford claims that he would revise Planning Policy Wales to make provision of sustainable transport infrastructure a fundamental requirement for new development (PPW Edition 11 could be arriving sooner than expected).

There is no doubt that Prof Drakeford is a man of conviction who will be committed to following through on the pledges set out in his manifesto that has resulted in a strong election win.  He has clearly convinced Labour Party members he is the man to lead Wales, but he now needs to convince the wider population of Wales also, as he looks to roll out his manifesto commitments and steer Wales down, what could be, a bolder new path. 

For updates on all things politics, regeneration and infrastructure - please watch this space or follow us on Twitter at @Grasshopper_UK.