Featuring a key note speech by Leo O'Reilly, Permanent Secretary for the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment, the Royal Town Planning Institute's conference, Place Matters, held in Belfast's Wellington Park Hotel last week (24th February), focused on improving the quality of the places that we live, work and enjoy. The conference was particularly timely in Northern Ireland given the Review of Public Administration and the proposed transfer of planning functions to local government.
Attended by over a 100 participants, including councillors, planners, architects, road engineers and other built environment professionals, the conference addressed the radical transformation of planning in Northern Ireland, sharing best practice from planners from Scotland, Wales and England. Moving away from the traditional planning of an area to planning as a mediation of space, the new system will have profound consequences in practice, for example, acknowledging that cars and people can mix and use the same space effectively rather than separating roads from pedestrians. Traditional planning tended to operate in organisational silos, making it difficult to share space and services.
RTPI President Richard Summers, who closed the conference said: \"\"The changing context for planning in Northern Ireland presents the profession with challenges and also opportunities. It's clear that a spirit of liberation is replacing a long-standing sense of frustration with planning in Northern Ireland but it's equally clear that concerns remain about public spending cuts.\"
Additional speakers at the conference included Anna Rose (Director Space Syntax) on simplicity in design, John Worthington (Co-founder Academy of Urbanism) on collaborative urbanism Professor Ruth Morrow (Professor of Architecture Queens University of Belfast) on engaging urban practices, Ben Hamilton-Braille (Architect) on traffic movement, and Graham Dalal, (Associate Director of Phil Jones Associates) on the role of Manual for Streets in delivering quality places and Ben Bolgar (Director the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment) on the holistic nature of places.
For information about the RTPI's Urban Design Network, please visit: http://www.rtpi.org.uk/urban_design_network/