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Standing room only as RTPI speaks at American Planning Association event

20 April 2015

There was standing room only at the presentation on English neighbourhood planning at the American Planning Association’s (APA) conference in Seattle on Saturday.  Led by Colin Haylock, former president of the RTPI, and assisted by Janet Askew, current president, an audience of more than 300 gathered to learn about planning in England, making this one of the popular events of the APA conference.

Colin H

Colin (left) explained the new approaches to community level planning and then described the complicated process whereby neighbourhood plans are adopted.  

The audience inundated the speakers with questions – first simply trying to understand the nuances of British planning, including searching questions on the discretionary system of planning, and then many questions on the success or otherwise of neighbourhood planning in engaging communities.

Janet Seattle 2There are currently numerous neighbourhood planning initiatives being discussed by the Americans, such as that in Seattle, where planning is concentrated on neighbourhoods, and the urban villages. Here, there are attempts to create mixed use areas of housing and employment, which are walkable with good public transport, aiming for more sustainable neighbourhoods.

RTPI President Janet Askew said: “The opportunity to give a presentation on the English approach enabled planners from both sides of the Atlantic to learn from each other’s good practice”

Janet SeattleJanet is attending the huge APA conference this week. 6,300 planners have gathered in Seattle on the sunny and beautiful west coast to share practice, and discuss issues about planning. The emerging themes are about place- making. How can the Americans create liveable, sustainable places in cities, whilst addressing the social, economic and environmental problems that prevail in some states?  Sessions about zoning and its severe limitations are of great interest to the conference attendees, and they are seeking much more flexibility in their planning – coding is thought to be stultifying their desire to create mixed use neighbourhoods.  

Janet Seattle 3Community and neighbourhood planning are also dominant themes, with delegates sharing good practice with planners from Portland, Ontario, as well as Seattle which demonstrate innovative sustainable policies.

"That so many planners can gather in one place for such a stimulating and energising conference says a lot about the way American planners want to really improve their cities and create much better places to live", said Janet. 

Read more information on neighbourhood planning

Planning Aid England publishes new neighbourhood planning resources for communities.

Watch a Youtube video on how we help communities with neighbourhood planning