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Institute takes planning case to party conferences

07 October 2010

Tino Hernandez, RTPI Head of Communications, reports on a busy conference season and explains why its crucial to keep on making our case to ministers.

Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham were the city venues for this year's round of party political conferences with the Institute organising four very successful events which were attended by coalition government ministers, our members, party delegates and a good number of policy think tank staff.

RTPI President Ann Skippers, Senior Vice President Richard Summers and Junior Vice President Colin Haylock each led a small officer team to one of the conferences and met with ministers and senior opposition spokespersons to ensure planning issues and most importantly the views of RTPI members were as high up the political agenda as possible.

Our Presidential team also publicly debated, argued and made points at many meetings whenever there was an important planning angle that could be put forward. If there was a more committed and passionate group of people at the conferences this year I didn't meet them.

Our Presidential team also publicly debated, argued and made points at many meetings whenever there was an important planning angle that could be put forward. If there was a more committed and passionate group of people at the conferences this year I didn't meet them.

Over a busy three week period, we held invite only planning policy discussion breakfasts at both the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Party conferences, as well as lunch time 'fringe' debates on the theme of local communities, planning and the forthcoming Decentralisation and Localism Bill. Each event, very generously sponsored by Savills, the leading global real estate service provider, was chaired by a member of the Presidential team. RTPI director of Professional Services, Sue Percy, also spoke to put the RTPI case as part of a panel of speakers.

This work is a small part of a much larger and ongoing programme of activity of engagement with the coalition. The election of a new government has meant literally thousands of organisations of every conceivable size and type trying to get the ear of ministers to influence the direction and detail of policy. Putting your particular case is both an opportunity and a challenge against what is a very competitive and crowded field, made even more challenging to get right when you are trying to represent the views of a body which has 23,000 members.

The communications and policy teams, supported by the Executive Board, Executive Team and our members, have already done a great deal of work following the result of the general election to position the RTPI strategically with the new administration. But there is a great deal still to do.

I know from my own time working for ministers in government that making your case and to be seen to be making your case is absolutely vital, even if the results can take time to become apparent. Against the background of the worst economic situation for 60 years it is more important than ever to lobby hard and effectively, to put the strongest possible case for planning and the planning profession at every chance you get.

As last year all our events were extremely well attended. RTPI staff James Butler and Ben Lee leafleted in all weathers to ensure good attendance and we were delighted many of our local members took the opportunity to take part in the debates too. We appear to be one of the few Institutes to actively involve members at party conferences.

It was especially encouraging to see the policy breakfasts fully booked. This was the first time the RTPI had held round table breakfasts with key national and local politicians. Making the case for properly resourced, strategic planning, retaining and developing the skills and the capacity of planners, and ensuring local communities have a genuine say over the future of their areas, is still an argument that needs to be won.

As RTPI President Ann Skippers said recently: 'In the short time the coalition government has been in power we have taken significant steps to promote the positive role that planning and planners have in shaping the future. Through our conference programme we will continue to engage positively and constructively with the coalition.' 

Further information, images and sound from conferences