The first month in my new role as RTPI Chief Executive has gone by very quickly. For those who do not yet know me here is the press notice announcing my appointment, which sets out some of my background.
Photo: Trudi Elliott discusses her new role as RTPI Chief Executive with Ben Lee RTPI Communications and Public Affairs Officer.
I said when I applied for the job that I would be determined to get out and about and regularly visit the regions and nations. So that's what I have started doing. I have already been able to meet colleagues in Northern and Southern Ireland, and Wales and will be visiting Scotland and the East Midlands very shortly. A big thank you to everyone for making me feel so welcome. It is much appreciated.
These are clearly challenging times for the Institute and the planning profession as a whole - but I also believe there are opportunities as well if we grasp them. Good planning has never been more important. This is a fantastic job and I intend working tirelessly to get done what we need to on behalf of the Institute. It's a very big agenda. I have a large in tray of important matters that together we need to address in the months ahead, and am very confident that we can build on the great successes RTPI has enjoyed in recent years.
As far as first months go its been very interesting. My first day began with a series of briefings and meetings at the Institute designed to get me right up to speed on the key issues facing RTPI and its members. On my second I am very pleased to be able to report that I was able to secure a working lunch meeting with Greg Clark, the Minister for Decentralisation, who is leading on the Localism Bill. As well as RTPI concerns and possible solutions for aspects of the Localism Bill, I discussed with the Minister the crucial issue of Planning Aid England, which is losing its funding, and the need therefore for the Government to announce the new neighbourhood planning funding arrangements as soon as possible. This he did a few days later. We are now working around the clock on a bid for the fund and on other initiatives, such as a national case work service line and how we might support communities facing major infrastructure projects.
One my chief tasks in my new role is to give the RTPI a stronger voice across Westminister and Whitehall and one that really counts, as well as to ensure we make our case and influence the debate as effectively as possible with important stakeholders and our many partners and potential. Along with the future of Planning Aid England, the Localism Bill is at the very top of my list of priorities. I gave evidence to the Localism Bill committee which is scrutinising the legislation line by line and have had a number of meetings with our stakeholders to press home our arguments following the recent consultation we held across the Institute on what we like and don't like about the Bill. As you would expect, I have also already had considerable contact with the senior civil servants at Communities & Local Government. We need to quickly build on the work we have already begun and develop deeper and more effective contacts across other government departments. The new localist approach from the Coalition Government also clearly points to bodies such as ours switching some more of our focus to a more local level in order to influence decision makers.
Making sure the RTPI is fit for purpose, increasing our use of the extraordinary expertise we have amongst our membership, providing members with the best possible value for money services and making much more of the value of RTPI membership and the research and academic work we do – are all key issues for me. I said there was a big agenda! Continuing education, skills and ongoing professional development are, additionally, absolutely crucial at this time. I am very pleased that we will soon be launching a new online CPD Portal which promotes innovative learning for planners. The RTPI CPD Portal will take you through a learning journey where you can identify your needs as a planner; acquire not only theoretical knowledge but also practical skills to apply to your daily work; critically reflect on your experience and share it with others. A way to change your practice, improve your performance and help you achieve your professional goals: this is the type of professional development that we have been developing for you.
A meeting of the RTPI General Assembly, my first Executive Board and speaking engagement, helping to organize the RTPI Planning Awards, and making arrangements for the change over in Presidents have all helped to keep me busy as my first month at RTPI draws to a close.
The RTPI is only as strong as its members. As we head towards our centenary in 2014 lets make the RTPI more relevant than ever before.