Richard Poppleton is the Planning Inspectorate’s director for Wales. As inspectors are appointed by Welsh ministers and use Welsh policy he sits at the interface with stakeholders and the Welsh government, focussing on the implementation of devolved planning powers and policy.
Q: What are the objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
A: To lead and manage a team of planning inspectors and administrative staff efficiently and effectively, within the context of the Frank’s principles of openness, fairness and impartiality [set out in 1957 by a committee, headed by Sir Oliver Franks, that reviewed tribunal procedures], so as to meet ministerial targets relating to quality and timeliness, and to ready the organisation for change.
[Another objective is] to ensure inspectors are kept up-to-date and are well-trained in an evolving policy and legislative context, while maintaining their independence and impartiality when conducting appeals and examinations. The quality of decisions and the delivery of objectives set in Welsh planning policy are measures of performance.
Q: What key lessons have you learnt during your career that has helped you fulfil those objectives?
A: Planning our environment is about managing change, not preventing it. As a planner and an inspector, I have been able to enable some changes that I hope have improved the places in which we live. Throughout my career, working firstly as a planner on historic town centre and town development schemes within a rural hinterland in the 1970s and 80s, and then as an Inspector helping councils to shape places through their development plans and ensuring that sustainable development is enabled, the Frank’s principles have guided my actions.
Change often attracts dissent and resistance: As a planner and latterly as director, I have sought to do the right thing and enthuse others to do likewise, but a key lesson is the recognition that change often attracts dissent and resistance. However, by holding to those values, I can live with the sometimes unpopular decisions that I have been called upon to make. Without good friends, an understanding family and colleagues who offer support and reassurance, decision making at whatever level, would be much harder. However busy we are, they should not be forgotten: they are to be valued and thanked.