Major local government conference hears from planning and place-shaping experts

(Left to Right):   Host Yvette Shapiro, NILGA Head of Policy and Governance Karen Smyth, Cllr Steven Corr, Chair, NILGA Place Shaping and Infrastructure Network, Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary, Department for Infrastructure, Prof Robin Hambleton, University of the West of England, Cllr Diana Armstrong, Vice-Chair, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Sara Venning, CEO, NI Water

(Left to Right): Host Yvette Shapiro, NILGA Head of Policy and Governance Karen Smyth, Cllr Steven Corr, Chair, NILGA Place Shaping and Infrastructure Network, Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary, Department for Infrastructure, Prof Robin Hambleton, University of the West of England, Cllr Diana Armstrong, Vice-Chair, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Sara Venning, CEO, NI Water

Senior civil servants, local government representatives and other planning experts outlined the potential benefits of ambitious planning and place-shaping policies today at a major conference in Enniskillen.  

The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA)’s conference ‘Changing Places: Planning, Place-Shaping and Place-Making in Northern Ireland’ discussed key issues concerning the future of planning, the environment and economic development in Northern Ireland.

Held in the Killyhevlin Hotel and supported by Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, the conference brought together planning experts from the NI Civil Service, local government, business, academia and the environmental sector.

Speakers included:

•             Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary DfI

•             Sara Venning, CEO, NI Water

•             Noelle McAloon, Enniskillen BID Manager

•             Paddy Gray, Emeritus Professor of Housing - Ulster University

•             Peter Morrow, Aecom

•             Ian Humphrey, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful

•             Robin Hambleton, University of the West of England and Urban Answers

As part of local government reform, the 11 councils took on significantly more responsibilities for the planning and place-shaping of our local communities.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Infrastructure, said:

“Today’s conference is a welcome opportunity to exchange perspectives and views on how to shape the future of planning in Northern Ireland. Our Department has a clear and firm focus on people and their wellbeing and how this can be delivered through regional place-shaping. Good design can change lives, communities and neighbourhoods for the better. This is why we have worked to produce products like our urban stewardship and design guide “Living Places.” This provides strategic guidance on how places should develop and change going forward. By working together we can create sustainable, living places which support communities, improve well-being and help create high quality, accessible and inclusive spaces where people want to live, work, visit and invest.”

Cllr Stevie Corr, Chair, NILGA Place Shaping and Infrastructure Network also said:

“Planning powers are arguably local government’s greatest responsibility in Northern Ireland. Place-shaping and place-making are about getting the right things built in the right places, about the spaces around buildings and other key issues impacting on quality of life including social justice, job creation, regeneration, climate change and sustainable development.

“Councils seek to plan and deliver with local communities, as place-shaping affects the lives of everyone. It is key that local councils have strong, efficient and focused planning systems which partner bodies respond to dynamically and which effectively drive the Northern Ireland economy.

“Our local councils have a powerful role in creating vibrant and sustainable local communities. Today has been a fantastic opportunity to hear from leaders involved in changing our places and to discuss how local government can effectively lead future planning and infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland.”