THE joint planning policy officer team working for Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils has gained a top national award.
The team, headed by Planning Policy Manager Nick Bryant, was shortlisted for the Local Authority Planning Team of the Year in the national Planning Awards, hosted by Planning magazine.
They came away with a top Highly Commended – a huge achievement in the light of tough competition from Bury, the City of London Corporation – the eventual winner – and West Sussex County Council.
Brendan Cleere, the councils’ director for growth and development, said: “The team is to be congratulated for gaining such a prestigious award. This demonstrates how well the single officer team has been working across the two areas since 2013. It’s a great example of our shared focus on both Taunton Deane and West Somerset.”
In the past year, the joint team has secured Garden Town status for Taunton from the Government, undertaken significant and complex master-planning for new development in and around Taunton.
The team has also overseen adoption of the West Somerset Local Plan to 2032: the first plan adopted for the area since 2006 and the Taunton Deane Site Allocations and Development Management Plan (SADMP) which provides complete policy coverage and allocations to guide development in Taunton Deane until 2028.
Team members have also been closely involved in neighbourhood plans in both council areas, working with parishes and the community.
The team has been successful in drawing in external funding – for example securing £350,000 of funding for Taunton Deane as part of the Government’s Garden Town programme. Taunton has been recognised as one of only nine places nationally where new, sustainable communities delivering upwards of 10,000 new homes will be realised.
The team put together a compelling bid drawing together elements of previous work on development and infrastructure planning into a professional submission. Garden Town status enables Taunton Deane to complete essential additional studies and evidence gathering to inform the detailed planning of key sites and help to ensure sufficient resources are available to deliver the transformational levels of growth set out in our Planning Policy documents.
Mr Cleere added: “This is recognition of one comparatively small team steering two development plans through the adoption process at the same time, which has to be highly unusual. At the same time they took on other important work such as the successful submission of the Garden Town Expression of Interest.
“It’s therefore gratifying to see their hard work, professionalism and commitment publically acknowledged on the national stage.”