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17 July 2019 | Firm News | Article by Caroline O'Flaherty

Hugh James hosts the RICS Wales Interprofessional Great Debate, focused on the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

On Wednesday 26 June Hugh James hosted the RICS Wales Interprofessional Great Debate Breakfast; the panel discussion focused on The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The Panellists:

  • RICS – Robert Chapman, RICS member
  • ICE – Yvonne Murphy, Senior Vice Chair, ICE
  • RTPI – Simon Power – Senior Vice Chair, RTPI
  • CIOB – Gordon Brown – Vice Chair, CIOB
  • CE Wales – Milica Kitson – Director CE Wales
  • RSAW – Carolyn Merrifield – President, RSAW

The act is unique to Wales and requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.

In his visit to Wales in 2015, Nikhil Seth (Former Head of Sustainable Development at the United Nations) said: “We hope that what Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow. Action, more than words, is the hope for our current and future generations.”

But without real enforcement, the panellists discussed how business leaders can use the legislation to create positive change rather than it being a reason for ‘stopping everything’. The panellists and audience alike also touched on the point of ensuring that the next generation in question were involved in these discussions regarding their future, with panellist Carolyn Merrifield, President of the RSAW asking “are we pushing against an open door, with the next generation already aware and thinking differently?”

Commercial property partner, Caroline O’Flaherty, chaired the event.

“It was exciting to chair such a lively debate on the Future Generations Act 2015. It was an inspiring session bringing together Eurgain Powell from the Commissioner’s office, planners, engineers, architects, surveyors and a wide representation from across the construction industry.”

“The challenges of implementing the Act’s aspirations were freely discussed and several clear messages emerged. There is a keenness to ensure there is one clear vision and “choir” voice communicating the direction of travel the industry wants to go in. It was unanimously agreed that the act is pioneering but there is a lot more to do. There was an emphasis on the importance of individuals making changes, for the ideas of the young future generations in this debate to be harnessed, and a desire to see top down change. There was a clear call for leadership in the way budgets are managed, policies are developed and procurement is implemented. Value not cost was emphasised.”

“There was real enthusiasm for using the Act to facilitate and reinforce the importance of place making and to develop cohesive joined up infrastructure and planning frameworks. I was very struck by the Ban Ki-Moon quote that was referred to during the debate: “We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last that can end climate change.”

“I left the debate determined that Hugh James will develop a Future Generations Act policy going forward that will reinforce the green and environmental policies already in place and that we walk the talk. It is also time I feel to liberate my bicycle from the garden shed, where it has been consigned since the last HJ charity bike ride from Aberystwyth to Cardiff!”

Our panellists were keen to share their views following the debate. Yvonne Murphy, a Senior Civil Engineer at Mott Macdonald said the following:

“It was great to be invited to take part in this enthusiastic debate. We all know that sustainable development is the right thing for everyone, and Wales has pushed forward by introducing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act to bring us a step closer to making tangible progress in creating a Wales our children will be healthy and proud to live in. It is encouraging to see that the will is there, particularly in the built environment sector as evidenced this morning. Formalising this Act with implementable policies and procurement incentives is the next step. Barriers to sustainable development must be challenged, and we stand a much greater chance of success by working together as professional bodies supporting local government in our shared ambition to shape a better Wales.”

Milica Kitson OBE LLB(Hons) FICE, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in Wales offered the following reflections on the morning’ s debate:

“My view is that the event demonstrated how we are all on the same page with the Act and that we are all frustrated with the fact we are making very little progress. Lowest price and cost culture dominates in the public sector, whatever anyone says, and that is preventing this industry from doing what it does best.”

Robert Chapman, partner at Robert Chapman & Company Chartered Surveyors, offered the following final thoughts: we need a joined-up vision that reflects a collaborative approach, sentiment and what people are doing to create a better nation.

“On “post-debate” reflection – and this is a piece of ongoing thinking, research and learning etc. that I am undertaking on my journey (as a Fellow of the RSA) to do something positive about littering, waste etc. – I wondered (more incisively) about two things: (i) if one accepts that paradoxically in waste management there has never been a more exciting time (time for revolution, not evolution in waste), then there is a noticeable deficiency in infrastructure investment in recycling and solid waste management, with minimal incentive to innovate and invest in advanced and sustainable solutions – surely this is an opportunity for Wales; (ii) accepting that Climate Change is the Symptom and Consumer Culture is the Disease, how do we motivate societal change (reduce – reuse – recycle) viz. awareness, understanding and action(s)? In conclusion, amusingly but seriously, I was taken by one of the panellists references to the “dancing man” – “the best way to create a movement is to have the guts to follow a lone nut”. Leadership is over glorified.”

Thank you to RICS for allowing us to hosts and chair, Development Bank of Wales for sponsoring and all those who attended.

Author bio

Caroline O’Flaherty


As a Partner in the Commercial Property team, Caroline O’Flaherty, specialises in acquisitions, disposals, property development and finance. Working across a variety of sectors, from office, retail, and industrial to leisure, Caroline has particular expertise in property portfolio management and leasing work.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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