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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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Recognition given to long-standing members of Council committee

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AT AN Ethics and Standards Committee (virtual) meeting held on 17 September 2021,  Rif Winfield and Hywel Wyn Jones were given recognition for their 10 years’ of service to the Committee between 2011 and 2021. A small plaque was presented to both.

Hywel was Chair of the Committee for 3 years.

In their place, two new independent members Alan Davies and Caryl Davies have been appointed.

Eifion Evans, Chief Executive of Ceredigion County Council said, “Ceredigion County Council has benefitted from a decade of advice and considerations provided by Rif & Hywel. We welcome the new members of the committee and their input to the function of the Committee will be greatly appreciated.”

Standards Committees of local authorities exist to do all that is possible to promote and safeguard the standards that the public rightly expect from their elected representatives.

Ceredigion County Council Chairman, Councillor Paul Hinge, said, “Our thanks go to Rif and Hywel who have given their time to contribute to the Committee and we welcome the new members.”

The Committee is made up of five independent members, two county councillors and two town/community councillors. Meeting quarterly, reports for the Ethics and Standards Committee including dispensation applications can be found on the Council website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Exciting new developments on the horizon for Lampeter Wellbeing Centre

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Architects have been appointed to oversee the project and work will now begin on the proposed layout for the facility

At a Cabinet meeting held on 01 December 2020, it was agreed that Lampeter Leisure Centre would become the location of the Council’s first Wellbeing Centre in the County.

A significant amount of work and investment is to be made at the Leisure Centre which will improve the facility and the resources for years to come.

Over the coming months, as we see the plans and proposals for Wellbeing Centre develop, they will be shared with service users and the residents of Ceredigion.

Architects have been appointed to oversee the project and work will now begin on the proposed layout for the facility. The layout will be a reconfiguration of the existing facility in order to provide a Wellbeing Centre that can provide an enhanced range of Through Age Services, including Leisure Services to the residents of Lampeter and the mid of the county. 

Councillor Catherine Hughes, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member, said: “We are looking forward to the development of the new Wellbeing Centre at Lampeter. This will provide a range of services to residents within their local community.

This development comes at a welcome time, as Ceredigion Public Service Board is carrying out an Assessment of Local Wellbeing, in order to find out about the wellbeing of local people and communities, now and in the future.”

Lampeter Leisure Centre will be closed during the building works, but during this period alternative provision will be made available for all service users and clubs.

We look forward to being able to share these alternative plans with you over the coming weeks, as soon as these arrangements have been finalised.

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UK Government must improve HGV drivers’ working conditions – Ben Lake MP

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Many people in the HGV industry have expressed concern

FOLLOWING his contribution during PMQs on September 8 regarding the HGV driver crisis, Ben Lake MP has raised the issue again, with Minister Grant Shapps.

Ben Lake MP has said:

“Many constituents who work in the HGV industry have come forward to share their experiences with me about the HGV driver crisis. As well as expressing grave concern, they have also shared ideas and long-term solutions that would greatly improve the current situation. 

“It’s important that the UK Government listens and gives full consideration to these suggestions and I look forward to meeting with the Minister in the near future to discuss them further.”

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