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Sense of place - RTPI in Scotsman

31 August 2012

Sense of place

Trevor Davies' piece (Perspective, 29 August) is a welcome addition to the debate on creating great places, and I am sure he doesn't believe planners and politicians conspire to blight the landscape.

My reading of his article is that, yes, there is a need to work with communities to develop places but that the leadership required to do this among planners, politicians and communities is hampered by a lack of power. Planners can, and do, develop visions for places through development plans. They will engage with communities, politicians, developers and investors in doing this but the reality is that implementing these visions is much more difficult.

It may not always suit landowners to follow the agreed vision as they have other ideas for their site. It may not suit the local community as they feel it may affect their house prices. It may not suit investors as they feel that it may not stack up financially.

Balancing these often conflicting viewpoints can lead to planning for the lowest common denominator that ignores the bigger picture and which, in turn, can lead to mediocre 
places. This is why Mr Davies is right to point to the need for sound leadership.

Planners already try provide leadership in circumstances where conflicting opinions are voiced. We work with communities to provide long-term vision for places and look to provide proactive solutions to the issues.

Doing this relies upon effective leadership from local politicians who have the final say on most major planning decisions.

They need to have confidence in the professional expertise and skills of planners, and to appreciate the need to balance the long term with the short term. They need to recognise the importance of places. Mr Davies' rallying call of \"this place matters\" is exactly what the planning profession has been shouting about for years. Planning is all about creating great places for people. We will continue to strive to do this but if we are to be successful we need the proper resources, 
support and tools to do the job.

Bob Reid, Royal Town Planning 
Institute Scotland's Convenor

Published in the Scotsman, 31 August