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Leading the way in managing planning

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A KEY Officer in Ceredigion leads the way in sharing what it’s like to have a career in planning.

Russell Hughes-Pickering is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration, which involves being the head of planning. He has been part of an informative article in February 2020’s edition of ‘The Planner’, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Russell Hughes-Pickering is one of twelve Corporate Lead Officers who sit on the council’s Leadership Group. He says planners need to “be politically astute and look above plans and policies”. This means understanding the organisation, their role in delivering corporate objectives and thinking strategically “so they see how they fit in across the board and in turn help deliver better services and better places for people.”

Russell left Llandovery College in 1985 to start a degree in planning at the University of Westminster. He started work at the London Borough of Hounslow in 1989 as a planner before becoming the lead officer in development plan work in 1997.

The RTPI’s article delves into the careers of a chief planning officer and is campaigning for heads of planning to be incorporated into local authority senior leadership teams. This is amid fears of a declining profile and diminishing corporate presence of spatial planning.

Russell continues, “The more I’ve been involved in preparing corporate plans or the council’s development programme, the easier it is to see, influence and ensure planning is involved at the right time. This has helped avoid issues when major projects go through their planning stage, whether that’s a town centre development, a change to a care home or a new school. Fortunately, I’m involved in an excellent leadership group where the culture focuses on improvement and helping each other to achieve better services.”

He moved back to Aberystwyth in 2000 when taking up the Principal Forward Planner role at Ceredigion, before becoming the Assistant Director for Planning in 2006. This job evolved from a primarily planning remit to one that also included building control and housing matters. In May 2013, he became Head of Performance and Improvement, then became Head of Performance and Economy in 2015. From 01 April 2018, Russell has been the Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration.

When asked what advice Russell would give younger colleagues, he wants to see more authorities improve arrangements on major development projects by setting up corporate development and project management groups and involve planners in them. He also wants to involve the next generation of planners. He said, “Young planners should get involved in these as much as possible so they’re involved in a wide range of service improvements, embrace projects or new development, seek ways to help progress and improve them, and engage in a positive way.”

Councillor Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, which includes planning. He said, “We are grateful to Russell for his vision and strong voice for planning matters in Ceredigion. A planner has a big part to play in helping to develop and deliver corporate priorities. It shapes the future of our county for future generations.”

The council’s decision to prioritise the planning process shows how the council is working to reach its corporate priorities of boosting the economy and Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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Cooperation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

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Ceredigion County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board (UHB) are working together in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three facilities in the county – Plascrug Leisure Centre and Penweddig School in Aberystwyth and Cardigan Leisure Centre – will provide additional capacity in response to the unprecedented challenges currently faced by the NHS and social care services.

Further sites across the county continue to be scoped and further information will be provided as and when these are confirmed. The health service is also working with its university partners in Aberystwyth on opportunities for them to support the efforts.

This follows announcements made last week confirming additional capacity in Parc Y Scarlets and the Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli and Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire.

Dr Phil Kloer, Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Delivering this additional capacity in Ceredigion will be essential to help us manage patient flow over the coming weeks and we are extremely grateful for all of the support that we are receiving from Ceredigion County Council to help make this happen.

“We have followed the situation in Italy closely to learn where possible and to help our planning. Our European colleagues have provided feedback that patient flow and throughput is a critical factor in response to COVID-19 pressures.”

Eifion Evans, Chief Executive said “Ceredigion County Council is proud to be supporting Hywel Dda University Health Board in establishing our Leisure Centres and one of our secondary schools as facilities which will provide additional capacity as we prepare for the potential impact of COVID-19. This is a reflection of the close partnership working between the two organisations. We thank all staff who have been working tirelessly to prepare for and respond to this crisis.”

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Ceredigion Public House to be served with a prohibition notice

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On Friday night, 27 March 2020, officers from Ceredigion County Council`s Public Protection Team came across a country public house serving customers alcohol, and open for business in contravention of the recently issued Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020. Police assistance was called and the landlord will now be served with a prohibition notice. A number of other offences were identified and a report will be made to the Council`s Licencing Committee.

Inspections by the Council’s Public Protection Team during the week have shown that the overwhelming majority of local businesses have voluntarily closed when they have been required to do so by the emergency regulations. Other businesses, where permitted to do so, have quickly diversified from serving foods to be consumed on their premises to providing deliveries or takeaways.

Premises that have been permitted to remain open have diligently and rapidly adjusted to social distancing measures. The vast majority of the community recognises the need for, and the importance of these emergency measures and has willingly played its part.

Over 70 premises were inspected last week, however only one premises failed to follow the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 introduced.

The Council’s Public Protection officers will continue to monitor compliance, with support from the Dyfed-Powys Police if appropriate. Businesses and premises which breach the regulations will be subject to prohibition notices and fines. Businesses that continue to contravene the measures will be forced to close down. Individuals and companies who do not pay their fine may also be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose potentially unlimited fines.

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Appeal following assault

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POLICE in Aberystwyth are keen to speak to a ‘good Samaritan’ who gave the victim of a serious assault a lift.

Aberystwyth CID are making enquiries into an incident in the early hours of Sunday, March 22, in which a man sustained significant injuries.

The assault took place in the Bridge Street area, near to Trefechan Bridge, shortly after 2am.

Officers are appealing for witnesses, or anyone with CCTV of the area, to make contact with the investigation team.

Police are also keen to speak to another man who has provided the injured victim with a lift in a van to the Trefechan area shortly after the assault.

If anyone has any information regarding this incident, or can assist the police in any way, they are asked to email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or call 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired you can also text the force’s non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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