Embracing the Act in the Property and Construction Sectors
It is one year on since the public sector in Wales published objectives setting out its plans to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of our nation under the requirements of the Wellbeing and Future Generations (Wales) Act - and over the coming months these 44 public bodies will begin issuing their first annual reports detailing the progress they have made.
Although the Act only applies directly to the 44 public bodies identified, there are implications and opportunities for private and third sector organisations in Wales that work with these public bodies that will need to be able to meet the changing requirements.
As a company committed to pursuing a sustainable and ethical agenda, we wanted an opportunity to explore how the Act is impacting the development and infrastructure sectors, and the implications for the wider supply chain for projects being delivered across Wales.
We therefore collaborated with Arup to host a panel debate on the 22 May (as part of the Women in Property South Wales events programme), to explore these issues further and to hear how project teams are embracing the spirit of the Act.
We heard from a range of panellists, from both the public and private sectors providing a range of different experiences and perspectives, and below is a summary of the discussion:
Emma Thomas, Infrastructure Advisor from the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner, kicked off the morning, with an emphasis on planning for the long term and explained that the Act encourages us to think about how property and construction projects will impact on future generations in Wales, as well as on present communities. It was highlighted that to achieve this, there is a need for a less traditional, more creative approach to projects, with more emphasis needed on factors like sustainability, continuity, flexibility, and consideration for the welfare of local communities.
Councillor Andrea Lewis, Cabinet Member for Housing, Energy and Building Services for Swansea City Council, explained how the seven well-being goals were included as part of the Swansea Labour Manifesto - which was then incorporated into the Council’s Corporate objectives and policy commitments. Cllr Lewis then went on to describe how the Council was delivering on these objectives by providing examples of Swansea’s sustainable development projects, including a Passivhaus-standard social housing scheme. Cllr Lewis also discussed how, as public bodies in Wales move towards greater sustainability due to the Act, so too will the private sector.
Safe drinking water, the environment and our communities are inextricably linked and Dusi Thomas, Environmental Manager at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water highlighted the importance of long-term planning in the context of well-being of future generations. With this in mind, Welsh Water has produced ‘Welsh Water 2050’ that sets out its long-term vision to ensure it continues to meet the needs of customers and addresses challenges such as climate and demographic change (that aligns with the Act). As a private sector organisation not bound by the Act, Welsh Water is clearly leading the way as a major organisation in Wales choosing to embrace the spirit of the Act voluntarily.
With forward thinking central to planning for future generations, Allan Pitt, Senior Planner at Arup explained that we need to think about how we want to live. Although implementation of the Act could be daunting, it is ground-breaking and an opportunity to improve strategic planning throughout Wales. Allan gave an example of how the principles of the Act had been taken on board to help evolve a number of recent development schemes.
Melissa Mahavar-Snow, Civil Engineering Project Manager for Natural Resources Wales (NRW), used an example of a flood scheme in Crindau, Newport as an example of how they are using the ways of working promoted in the Act (such as involvement and collaboration), to try to improve their infrastructure schemes so that they help deliver more sustainable communities. Melissa described how NRW has worked with the local Council and local people in order to design the scheme to bring additional positive benefits to the area, including cycleways and walkways, improved open space and better lighting to improve safety.
What was clear from the event was the appetite for a more sustainable approach in Wales from both the public and private sectors, and that projects must be designed and delivered in a way that reflects this trend.
We would like to thank all of our panellists for their invaluable input and informative presentations on the Act and its implications on the property and construction sectors, as well as all those who attended.
To keep up to date with both Grasshopper’s and Wales’ sustainable journey, as well as any developments within the built environment sector please follow us at @Grasshopper_UK or get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org