In the News: Planning the tallest building in Wales

Written by: Colin Marrs
Published on: 29 Nov 2015

Plans have been submitted for a 42-storey, mixed-use tower in Cardiff city centre which would be the tallest building in Wales. Iain Watkins is group planning director at Watkin Jones Group, the developer which submitted the plans.

Q. What was your involvement in this application?

A. I was involved from day one. As soon as we acquire a site then I am ready to go. I lead a team of three planners and we do most of our work in house.

Q. What are the advantages of a developer having its own in house capability?

A. There are a number of very good planning consultants out there but there are also a number of bad ones. When you do it in house you know that the schemes you are preparing are deliverable. We are also able to maintain a close view of the construction and operational aspects.

Q. What work have you done on getting the scheme to this stage?

A. This scheme has been going on for the majority of this year. It has been subject of a number of pre-application meetings with planning, design, conservation and highways officers at the council. We go through a public engagement process on every scheme – it is vital and makes you think about things you wouldn’t have otherwise done.

Q. What have been the main challenges?

A. The site is very constrained in terms of its footprint. It doesn’t really lend itself to many other uses. If you had to put a residential tower on the site there would be nowhere to provide parking. It wasn’t our intention to build the tallest building in Wales but that’s just how the scheme has evolved.
Of course the key thing with a tall building like this is the visual impact. We needed to continually test this throughout the process.