East Devon District Council trains volunteers how to record ancient trees in the Clyst Valley
East Devon District Council trains volunteers how to record ancient trees in the Clyst Valley. Credit: Jenny Steer

The Clyst Valley Regional Park has been declared overall winner at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) South West Awards for Planning Excellence 2021, as well as winning the ‘Excellence in Plan Making Practice’ category and highly commended in the RTPI South West Chairs Award for Health, Wellbeing and Inclusivity.

Hot on the trail of COP26 and with a clear vision to support East Devon District Council’s aim to be net carbon zero by 2040, the plan evidences the impact that planners can have on sustainability and promoting wellbeing. East Devon District Council’s cross-cutting team turned an ambitious green infrastructure policy for the Clyst Valley Regional Park into a 25-year masterplan, backed by public support and a partnership of seventeen organizations.

Councillor Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Coast, Country and Environment, said:

“I am delighted that the team at East Devon District Council have been recognised for their hard work on the Clyst Valley Regional Park masterplan.

“A Nature Recovery Network forms part of the masterplan and ambitious targets have been set for nature, people and climate. For example, we’ve secured a grant of £100,000 from the Government and we've allocated £10,000 from the Council’s Climate Fund for our ‘Clyst Canopy’ project for more trees, of the right type, in the right place. That’s one of the many actions in East Devon’s climate plan.

“The Committee on Climate Change recommends a national target of 17% tree cover by 2050. We’re more ambitious than that! We’ve set a target of 30% for the Clyst Valley. The goal is to encourage local businesses to invest in the conversion of unproductive farmland to woodland.”


Chair of RTPI South West Angharad Williams, said:

“In a year of uncertainty, I am delighted by the broad range of inspirational entries that we received this year. Celebrating planning excellence allows us to reflect, reward and learn from exemplar projects, teams and people as we move forward in transforming our communities, protecting and enhancing the environment, creating successful economies and delivering exceptional places. Congratulations to all of this year’s finalists and winners.”

The winners of the 2021 awards are (see more details on the website www.rtpi.org.uk/southwestawards):

EXCELLENCE IN PLANNING DELIVERY (ie. completed or virtually completed physical buildings, structures etc.)


Millbay Boulevard and Associated Works, Plymouth (Entered by Plymouth City Council)

EXCELLENCE IN PLAN MAKING (i.e Local Plans, Strategies, Neighbourhood Plans, Local Plans)

Category Winner:

Clyst Valley Regional Park Masterplan (Entered by East Devon District Council)

The Submission states that “The multi-disciplinary team from East Devon District Council have transformed an ambitious green infrastructure policy into practice, giving the fledging Clyst Valley Regional Park wings! Starting small, sharing resources across local authority boundaries, they have now grown into a partnership of seventeen organizations. Their springboard ‘Great Trees’ project won Pride of Devon for its practical engagement of volunteers and focus on wellbeing. With a strong brand, clear vision and action plan, defined in a 25-year masterplan generated through open dialogue, they have demonstrated the impact that planners can have on sustainability”. 

It was evident to the Judges that Planners are leading and working with the local community and other public and private sector bodies, to deliver on the care and maintenance of the Clyst Valley as a valuable asset. ‘Soft engagement’ is going hand in hand with ‘hard’ infrastructure delivery in what East Devon Council sees as ‘planning beyond planning’. The Judges concluded that this is an excellent project; as one of the Judges stated “this is what master planning is for- setting out a framework for action on the ground”

Highly Commended:

Torbay Heritage Strategy 2021-2026 (Entered by Torbay Council)

This year's Chair's Award champions those projects, plans, people or teams that are clearly demonstrating how planning can have a positive influence on health, wellbeing and/or inclusivity.


Feria Urbanism

The 2021 Chair, Angharad Williams said that “The team demonstrated throughout their presentation their sheer commitment to developing relationships within the community and with people of all ages and abilities. The extensive range of projects takes inspiration from an art and design background, involving the community within their work demonstrates their passion for inclusive design on a personal level and their ambitions for creating future dementia friendly design is commended. I am excited to see what future projects are developed and encourage others to continue being passionate about the importance of inclusive design”.

Highly Commended;

Clyst Valley Regional Park Masterplan (Entered by East Devon District Council)

Angharad said that “I was impressed by their consideration of inclusive design in their fantastic drive to consult with the community and consider the need to widen footpaths and make them accessible for those with wheelchairs and others.”


This award recognises the achievements of planning teams working within the public, private or third sector. This includes consultancies and in-house teams.

Joint Winner:

Sedgemoor District Council Development Management Service

Joint Winner:

Feria Urbanism


This award seeks out the brightest RTPI members in the early stages of their careers. Potential candidates can work in any area of the industry.


Frances Summers, Dorset Council

Highly Commended:
Emily Johnson, AECOM


Christopher Lee, Dorset Council    

The RTPI represents 25,000 planning professionals worldwide and promotes spatial planning, shapes policy and raises professional standards. The Awards for Planning Excellence in the South West have been run by the RTPI’s South West region for over 30 years to recognise planning excellence.

The RTPI South West Awards for Planning Excellence 2021 are sponsored by Stride Treglown and TetraTech Planning

The presentation to the winners took place in a virtual ceremony on YouTube on 23 November at 14.00.

For more information and for high-quality images of the shortlisted projects, contact Will Finch: Royal Town Planning Institute: Tel: 020 7929 8182 / will.finch@rtpi.org.uk