#planning Archives | Owen Davies Consulting

The first ten years

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Ten years ago, I started Owen Davies Consulting with a simple aim: to help make places more memorable, liveable and viable.

Looking back, it was the right opportunity at the right time (and a bit of luck) that made it happen. I had spent many hours sketching out an idea for a purpose driven, creative, and bespoke consultancy – frustrated with the multi-national consultancy I was with at the time. And I had a couple of key clients that were also interested in the idea and willing to stick with me if I decided to take the plunge. The break came in May 2013, with my sketchy business plan, we launched.

I haven’t looked back – enjoying every opportunity to build a purpose driven team team and blending our planning, economic, regeneration and design skills. Plus, helping turnaround the fortunes of many types of places – buildings, streets, neighbourhoods, towns, cities, and on a bigger scale supporting government at local and regional levels to devise their strategies.

So, our first ten years have seen Owen Davies Consulting grow into a small but vastly experienced consultancy. I’ve picked up some accolades along the way such as becoming an expert for the Governments High Street Task Force and Fellow of the Institute of Place Management. Sometimes it feels like we punch above our weight as we deliver major initiatives and landmark projects across the UK – the latest helping Wrexham to gain its city status (enjoying its global fame I had to mention Wrexham !)

Through our work, we have also tried to be socially engaged, environmentally conscious practitioners doing our bit to help regenerate where we live, work and visit. Whether it’s been investing our own time and funds into repurposing an empty town centre property, providing the experience for budding students or volunteering with a heritage trust to help restore an amazing historic building.

It feels like I’ve been thinking about memorable, liveable and viable places long before it became branded as ‘placemaking’. And it’s all about sticking to what you know, doing your research, speaking to the right people and being clear how your ideas can make a difference.

Ideas + execution = impact

So, as we pass our ten-year milestone it’s time to thank the clients that trusted us with their briefs and their budgets. To the politicians, businesses, organisations and communities that have welcomed us to their town, city or neighbourhood. Thank you for your time, wisdom, and honesty. And to the team and range of experts we have worked with – urban designers, economists, engineers, artists and creatives – we are grateful for the new perspectives that you brought and the ideas that we have created together.

Here’s to another ten years. Here’s to regeneration and placemaking. And here’s to taking the plunge and a bit of luck.


PS – why not read about the projects we have been up to in our regular website news posts

Digital placemaking – harnessing technology & data to revitalise our towns

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How do you realise the potential of digital as part of mainstream placemaking and place strategies? There’s six key lessons we’ve learnt through preparing Digital Place Plans that harness technology and data to regenerate urban spaces, revitalising high streets and boost local tourism

At Owen Davies Consulting, we’ve been thinking about the future of places for almost 30 years and in that time have helped places big and small to understand the opportunities for increasing their social, economic, cultural and environmental prosperity. But it has only been in the last few years – and especially through our involvement in the Welsh Governments Year of Smart Towns programme and including supporting 15 towns across Wales to pilot a new approach to digital placemaking – that we have fully realised the potential of digital within mainstream placemaking and place strategies of towns. 

We’ve already supported 15 towns across Wales to pilot a new approach to digital placemaking, but we’re still learning, of course, but here are six things we’ve learned so far: 

1 – Digital is everywhere, so places of all sizes need to embrace it rather than hide from it. 

All aspects of local, regional and national policy now have a digital dimension deeply embedded within them, so if you want to stay aligned with or influence it – and of course access related public funding such as Transforming Towns here in Wales – you need to embrace it. 

2 – Although some of the jargon involved can be baffling, the principles of digital placemaking are straightforward. 

With mysterious terms like ‘smart cities’, ‘LoRaWAN’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ widespread in the digital dialect, it’s perhaps no surprise that place leaders are often unclear about how to harness technology and data to regenerate urban spaces, revitalise high streets and boost local tourism. For us, digital placemaking is straightforward: it’s about bringing together the practice of placemaking with the exploitation of technology and data. Or put even more simply, it’s about including consideration of how using technology and data can help make better places. 

3 – Digital placemaking is just as important for smaller places as for bigger ones. 

The concept of ‘Smart Cities’ has been around for a long time now, but programmes like the Year of Smart Towns have demonstrated that there’s no reason why smaller (but no less important) places can’t reap the benefits of becoming smarter too. No town should be left behind! 

4 -Digital placemaking is a journey, and you’ve got to start that journey somewhere. 

When we work with towns to produce a Digital Place Plan or properly consider digital within a Placemaking Plan, we encourage them to do things thoroughly by following a five-step process to produce the Plan, and then when looking at delivery, to focus first on delivering a few simple wins. As with many things, it’s better to start small, learn lessons and then grow, rather than try and do too much, too quickly, and get overwhelmed.  

5 – Digital placemaking isn’t easy and there are plenty of barriers to overcome. 

Needing to understand the dynamics of local decision making, overcome apathy, and demystify key concepts… sound familiar? The barriers to digital placemaking are similar to those faced when taking a more traditional placemaking approach. Fortunately, we’ve learned plenty of lessons from our pilot work and now have a toolbox of techniques to help stakeholders achieve the best outcomes. 

6 -Get it right and you can have a big impact. 

By using data, people can make better decisions for their town and local area. With transparency on actions, activities, and trends, they can recognise opportunities and act on them faster. Just for starters, this can mean giving people the confidence to launch new businesses, helping existing businesses grow, and attracting and evidencing the success of public events. 

All the above means that digital placemaking is a key strategic opportunity for practitioners in the heritage, regeneration and urban development sectors, including developers, place managers, planners, architects, designers, heritage trusts, and local governments. 

If you are interested in learning more about our work in digital placemaking, we recently delivered an online masterclass as part of Welsh Government’s Smart Towns Cymru initiative. If you missed it, you can now watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/FVspi0X6g3E  

We also have a short film explaining all about our Digital Place Plans you can watch here: https://youtu.be/7yFechhxRrE 

Digital Placemaking Team

owen@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk  + adam@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk +ieuan@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk



New planning powers in Wales curb second homes and crackdown on Airbnb’s

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Few things in planning are truly “radical”, but after decades of campaigning new planning powers in Wales are set to curb the contentious issue of second homes and crackdown on holiday lets with the introduction of three new use classes.

In Wales and other coastal communities from Cornwall to Cumbria, the impact on local communities of the growing second home market and the loss of private rental property to Airbnb style holiday lets has become a hot political issue. Rising house prices are pricing local people out and the shortage of affordable rental properties is turning communities into ghost villages out of the holiday season. And in Wales, there’s the acute issue of the decline of Welsh speaking communities.

We have observed these impacts during one of our recent studies preparing an action plan to manage the impact of tourism on the idyllic Welsh speaking coastal community of Llansteffan in Carmarthenshire. It’s estimated in the village with about 500 people, 25% of properties are second homes, just 11 homes have families with children of school age and only 9 properties are on the social housing register. The lack of affordable housing for local people and families because of a growth in second homes, holiday lets, and rising house prices has been raised as a major issue. Young people, therefore, families with children are moving out of the village. During our study we met with a group of young adults, each one had grown up in the village, and all were employed but had been forced to move away or were ‘stuck’ living with a parent in the village. This raised concerns about the longer-term impacts on sustaining the community and social infrastructure including the school. For some, they believed it was too late and will never be able to return to live in their home village.

The new power in Wales will give local planning authorities the ability, where they have evidence, to make local amendments to the planning system through an Article 4 Direction, allowing them to consider whether planning permission is required to change from different types of dwellinghouses to another and to control the number of additional second homes and short-term lets in an area. The Use Classes Order is being amended to create new use classes for ‘dwellinghouses, used as sole or main residences’ (class C3), ‘dwellinghouses, used otherwise than as sole or main residences’ (class C5) and ‘short-term lets’ (class C6).

In addition, the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) is being amended to allow permitted changes between the new use classes, C3, C5 and C6. These permitted development rights can be dis-applied within a specific area by an Article 4 Direction made by a local planning authority based on robust local evidence. These new powers will come into force on 20th October 2022.

These changes come hot on the heels of legislation allowing local authorities in Wales to impose a 300% council tax hike on second homes and plans to levy a higher Land Transaction Tax on purchases.

Likely, similar coastal and rural areas of the UK with parallel issues will look on Wales with interest and maybe envy. Earlier this year the UK Government declared “war” on second-home owners said the press when a review into Airbnb and holiday homes in tourist towns was launched as part of the “levelling-up” programme.

Owen Davies

Velo Park promises to be of “national importance” for the growth of cycling & wheeled sports

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PLANS to build a velo park in Monmouthshire which promises to be of “national importance” for the growth of cycling and wheeled sport have been approved by councillors.

Owen Davies Consulting has led the feasibility, design, planning and project management on behalf of Monmouthshire CC and Welsh Cycling. The development of this unique sporting, leisure and education facility will include a closed road circuit with facilities for road, cyclocross and entry-level mountain biking.

In 2020 the council was awarded a grant from the Welsh Government, via Sport Wales, to develop a project. Facilities will be suitable for leisure, coaching, training and competitive cycling, and for all forms of wheeled sports.

The closed road circuit will be six metres wide and one kilometre in length, on a unique undulating course with street lighting covering part of the circuit to allow for its use during the evening.

The project has been complex to develop, because of the site’s topography, biodiversity and ecology, with a number of protected species identified on or immediately adjacent to the site.

At a planning committee meeting on Tuesday, Councillors backed the application. The following day the Council’s Cabinet backed the scheme with over £490k to fund the construction of the first phase of the multi-million pound Abergavenny velo park.

We blogged about the velo park design in 2020 https://owendaviesconsulting.co.uk/velo-park-enhancing-monmouthshires-national-international-reputation-cycle-sport-tourism/

The Abergavenny velo park project has been a ‘sweetspot’  project for our team where we were able to combine Owen’s lifetime experience of racing cycling and experience as a British Cycling qualified coach with our professional masterplanning and development skills to plan, design and enable this nationally significant scheme.


43A Frogmore St, Abergavenny NP7 5AN
Why not call us first for a chat on 07809 594524
If you prefer then send an email to Owen Davies at owen@owendaviesconsulting.co.uk