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Melissa Balk, an associate based at our Bedford office, will be celebrating at a ceremony at the Hylands Estate in Chelmsford on Thursday 30 June at the East of England regional final of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2022.

The awards recognise and reward the brightest talent in the profession; the most outstanding projects, teams and people helping to transform economies, environments, and communities and focus on rewarding the excellent work done from across the profession.

Melissa has been shortlisted as a Young Planner finalist in the East of England region. Melissa has demonstrated excellent leadership skills and an eagerness to develop when charged with running the Bedford-based planning team at short notice. She is a team player who cares deeply about her local area, immersing herself in the local plan and business development opportunities and the vital role planning plays in improving the community, particularly through biodiversity and rural projects. She is also passionate about mental health and well-being and uses her platform through the RTPI and Women in Planning to advocate for its inclusion in national planning policy.

Outside of work, Melissa is a member of the East Midlands Young Planners committee for the RTPI, through which she has assisted with organising CPD events, securing sponsorship, viewing venues for events and promoting these. She is an active member of Women in Planning, helping to kick-start the South Midlands branch and joining its committee, which she has been part of since early 2019. Through this Melissa was asked to give a speech to members on mental health in planning. She subsequently secured an article in The Planner and has recently contributed to a homebuilders’ whitepaper on the same topic, securing her reputation as an expert in this area.

Melissa said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been selected as a finalist. It would not have been possible without the continued support and trust from the organisation.”

One of Melissa’s projects has also been shortlisted in the Best Project in the South East region. Featherbed Fruits is a farm diversification project with significant climate, economic and educational benefits. Based near the village of Mixbury, Oxfordshire, the project will supply strawberries to local food outlets and will help meet the increased demand for locally sourced produce. The project will also offer educational school visits and have climate benefits for example through reducing pesticide use, recycling rainfall and the use of a hydroponic (soil free) system.

James Beverley and Antonia Wyatt, senior planners based at our Ashby office are also through to the regional finals. Nia Borsey, a senior planner based at our Chester office won the North West regional final on 24 June.

Winners across the regions will be announced and celebrated locally in June and July and will go through to the national finals. Finalists for all 15 categories will be announced in October followed by a final ceremony in central London in November.

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