My remit is very wide as anything that can impact future generations and the sustainable development principle falls within it.
That is why many people write to the office about various topics that interest or concern them. These vary greatly in scope and topic – from issues with specific housing applications, to concerns about digital infrastructure and the health impacts of waste burning plants.
While I do not have the power or the capacity to get involved in specific issues, I use correspondence as part of the intelligence that helps me to detect overarching, systemic issues.
Whenever such an issue is detected, my team and I assess this against a set of criteria and, if the issue meets these, determine what actions and steps I can take to help resolve the systemic issue. Some of the ways I have gotten involved with systemic issues in the past include research and reports, advice to public bodies, and raising questions and concerns with government officials.
Examples of times when I have gotten involved in issues as a result of them being raised in correspondence are:
- My work on Planning. I selected Planning as one of my areas of focus because it tends to be the most common theme that members of the public write to me about;
- Environmental Permitting – following a spike in letters related to the way in which Natural Resources Wales takes account of the Act in their environmental permitting work, my team and I met with officials from Natural Resources Wales to provide advice and ideas on steps that public bodies can take to ensure the Act is embedded in their decision-making.
- Letters to Ministers – over the years I have written to different Welsh Ministers to raise various concerns that people share with me. Some of the topics that I have written to Ministers about include concerns about the research used in relation to 5G, the mental health impacts of school closures on children, and issues with the implementation of the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance.
The multiple issues that people contact us about are shared with the whole team through regular Correspondence reviews and these are kept in mind in all of my work, including my duty to monitor and assess the extent to which public bodies meet their well-being objectives.