Senior Policy Adviser

Alastair Welch



working in planning


avid wildlife



Great North Run


Marine planning is still a little-known area of planning and yet the UK marine area is over 3 times the size of the UK land area!

Where do you work?

I work in the Marine Planning team at Defra in a policy role. Marine planning is still a little-known area of planning and yet the UK marine area is over three times the size of the UK land area! The marine planning system is comparatively new when compared to the terrestrial planning system which may explain this. There’s a lot more going on in our waters than you may realise, and planning has an integral role to play.

Route into planning

Tell us about your route into planning

At 18 I wasn’t overly aware of planning. I therefore did a BSc in Environmental Science and an MRes in Ecology and Environmental Management as I wanted to understand the environment and know how best it could be managed to make positive changes. I think this is essentially what planners do, just with a more holistic focus. I then found an environmental job at the Environment Agency which happened to be in a planning team, the two worlds collided, and I was hooked! I then worked at Natural England in two distinct planning roles before my move to the Marine Planning team at Defra.

Marine plan areas in England
An example of a marine plan

How does your role involve helping the public?

My role is to help the public through ensuring our marine planning documents are useful, used and in line with government ambitions. Marine planning documents support planning consent through enabling integration with existing uses of the marine environment. For example, enabling offshore wind consent will benefit the public through reducing the impacts of climate change and providing a greater level of energy security. 

Alastair does voluntary work with the with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Alastair featured in the RPTI's 'The Planner' magazine

Tell us about any work you’ve done to help your local community

Marine planning has less of a direct impact on communities given they tend to be land based.

However, Defra allows 3 days leave each year to undertake voluntary work which I tend to spend with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust doing tasks on their sites. This may be clearing pathways to improve public access or to improve habitat for communities of other species. Being able to see the positive difference you have made to a site at the end of a day is something planners I’m sure can appreciate!

I am also active locally with the RTPI in various ways and have been Vice-Chair of the Young Planner’s Committee which included hosting the Young Planner’s Conference and appearing in The Planner! I have also presented on the benefits of planning to students and arranged networking and teach-ins for planners.

Alistair is a fan of the Great North Run

Your spare time

What do you do when you are not planning?

I enjoy travelling to new countries, my current tally is 38! The Great North Run is a bit of a rite of passage in Newcastle and I have completed that a number of times. I try and see my favourite musicians and comedians on tour too. I have also written songs with the highlight being Dick Valentine of rock band Electric Six performing vocals on one of them!