Standing up for planners and planning
Like so many RTPI members in England, I was very disappointed to see some of the press reports quoting the government saying we need to ' get planners off our backs' on the day of last week's housing and growth announcement.
Whatever you might think of what the government was announcing, overall that inflammatory remark was patently untrue. I have written to both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister seeking meetings and calling on their backing, not criticism, of the planning profession when we are all doing so much to help create new development and boost economic recovery. Recent research shows 2,000 building projects are getting approval each month since the introduction of the NPPF.
Thankfully, the day after the announcement, and subsequently, the media reports have largely concentrated not on this ridiculous criticism of planners but on whether the package of proposals will work in any meaningful way given the challenges the country faces. I expect you will all have also seen numerous stories predicting neighbourhood disputes over the relaxation of the rules for building new extensions.
I was very pleased to see the cross party Local Government Association (LGA) give particular strong support to the profession. I recently met with Sir Merrick Cockell, the LGA Chairman, and was delighted to see his very well informed forthright quotes defending planning.
The RTPI does not intend giving any further currency to 'planners off our backs' remark by repeating it in our media responses.
On the day of his appointment Trudi Elliott, the RTPI's Chief Executive, wrote to the new Planning minister, Nick Boles, asking for an early meeting. I have also sent a letter on the value of planners and planning to the Daily Telegraph and our Junior Vice President, Cath Ranson, has written to the Guardian.
Professor Gavin Parker, our Director of Professional Standards, has written to the Times Higher Education Supplement on the value of planning schools.
The RTPI team is, in addition, working on detailed responses to the Permitted Development Rights plans, and on affordable housing requirements within development sites. Our Immediate Past President, Richard Summers, is writing a new article on the importance of planners and planning to the economy, which we will be looking to place.
Much of the work we do is necessarily away from the glare of the media and often not reported. I want to assure members that the RTPI will continue to defend planners and planning and do all we can to help shape the announced package of proposals which – a point overlooked by most of the media – are subject to consultation.