Budding architect Ben nets national planning award

A Dudley youngster who shared his vision for improving an area of the town has netted a national planning award.

Budding architect Ben Baker-Barnes drew up a blueprint for improving an eyesore site near his school, Jessons’ Primary, on the corner of Wolverhampton Street and School Street.

The eight-year-old, from Dudley, drew up plans to convert it into an attractive open space for parents and pupils. He submitted his entry in the 2017 World Town Planning Day Schools Competition, run annually by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

As one of the winners, Ben will receive one year’s membership of the RTPI for himself and his teacher, an Amazon voucher worth £50, and a certificate. Anna Baker-Barnes, Ben’s mother, said:

“Ben has always loved building Lego and creating Minecraft cities.

“He took an interest in disused buildings from around the age of five and decided he wanted to become a builder when he was older and make things nicer.

“We tried to get him to draw his ideas, and that’s when we realised he had drawn up a plan for a new house in our back garden this summer.

“This was not going to happen, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer! So I let him write to the council for planning, and sure enough the council agreed with us.

“They did, however, invite Ben in to meet the mayor, and for a special look behind the scenes on World Planning Day to find out what happens when people do have applications accepted. He was absolutely thrilled to be asked and still tells everyone he meets about it now!

“One of the planning officers emailed me to let me know about the competition and straight away Ben couldn’t wait to enter. We’re so proud of him.”

Councillor Ian Kettle, cabinet member for planning and economic development, said:

“Ben came in on a visit to the council last year, where it became clear very quickly he had a passionate interest in local planning.

“When our officers spotted the competition in a trade magazine we encouraged him to enter and have a go.

“It’s great that he did enter and absolutely fantastic that his entry was considered strong enough to be announced as one of the winners nationally.

“He’s quite right as well that site needs tidying up. We are working very hard to regenerate and improve that area of the town and, although that site is privately owned, we are trying to speak to the landowner to see what we can do.”

The 2017 World Town Planning Day Schools Competition was open to seven to 18-year-olds.

Using five images, entrants had to show how they would make their local place more inclusive, resilient and sustainable.


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