The way places are planned, designed, developed and managed has the potential to positively shape where and how people will live, work, socialise, move about and engage.

So what is placemaking and why does it really matter? The principles of placemaking are not new. It promotes the needs of people and optimises the opportunity for walking, cycling, convenient access to public transport, mixed use developments that offer a range of services and amenity, public space, community infrastructure and distinctive identity.

All these are public benefits accrued from good placemaking – they come with added extras too such as positive environmental contributions, construction jobs, investment and regeneration. Viewed from this perspective of prioritising value for the public first, you have to wonder why it’s not yet the default for urban and rural renewal and new build across the piece.

Great places, where there are opportunities to get involved in local life, with a vibrant public realm, where people can get to places easily without depending solely on private vehicles and where people can get to know each other are desirable for everyone.

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Getting these considerations into early land use planning considerations provides a huge advantage – it puts homes, schools, healthcare and other services – all the things people need - in the right locations.

Early decisions about the right developments in the right places are fundamental to the potential for placemaking. New development should seek to support and improve the quality, connectivity and viability of existing places rather than to compete and detract.

Not for the first time, a pandemic has reshaped thinking and placed renewed emphasis on the places where we live, work and access services. Fortunately, legislation and policy in Wales already prioritises and promotes placemaking.

We have political will and the only national Placemaking Partnership and Charter in the UK. The Future Wales national plan as well as strategic and local development plans are also opportunities to integrate the fundamentals of successful placemaking.

Importantly, more than 70 signatories have adopted the Placemaking Wales Charter since its launch in September 2020. It is incredibly heartening to see Swansea Council and Newport City Council as the first local authorities in Wales to commit to better buildings, places and spaces by signing the Wales Placemaking Charter.

The Placemaking Wales Charter was developed by Welsh Government and our team at the Design Commission for Wales in collaboration with the Placemaking Wales Partnership.

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Signatories including developers, land-owners and public bodies have pledged to involve the local community early in the development of proposals, to choose sustainable locations for new development, prioritise walking, cycling and public transport and create well defined, safe and welcoming streets and public spaces. This level of commitment and collective responsibility is unique to Wales.

Sophie Howe Future Generations Commissioner for Wales rightly made the point earlier this month, the Covid-19 pandemic has given us a profound opportunity to rethink communities.

It’s an opportunity to tackle the climate imperative and to address health and wellbeing Every public health crisis in history has galvanised better urban planning and design, housing and infrastructure - this one is no different. Loneliness and isolation were an increasing problem pre-Covid-19 – now a sense of belonging, ownership and connection is a critical part of our economic, social and cultural recovery.

Put simply, it’s about doing the right thing. Because the way we plan, design and build our communities and infrastructure for the future is critical in addressing long-term challenges and supporting well-being.

That’s why we are so passionate about the value of good placemaking and will continue to ensure that our work is fully aligned with the Well-Being of Future Generations Act and supports the proper and consistent implementation of national design and planning policy in Wales.

Good design makes everything better. As we look to the future, good placemaking will need to be at the core of ensuring the delivery of inclusive, socially connected and vibrant communities throughout Wales. Together, we can make Wales a better place.

​Carole-Anne Davies, chief executive of the Design Commission for Wales