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Centenary President Cath Ranson looks back on her year

07 February 2015

'For last year's words belong to last year's language

And next year's words await another voice.’

TS Eliot, Four Quartets

Slide 1 – Lady Lex Stone 

Prynhawn Da, Diolch o’r galon i’chi gyd am llynedd / Good afternoon, and heartfelt thanks for the past year.

Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues, friends and honoured guests, thank you for attending this evening to mark the handover of the chains of office to our 2015 President, Janet Askew.

Slide 2 – Inauguration photo 2014

Has it really been a year?

In passing on the baton it is timely to reflect on my presidential year, which was truly a year in a hundred, celebrating the centenary, reflecting on 100 years of planning achievements and looking to the challenges of the future. We shared that centenary with the commencement of the ‘War to end all Wars’ a time for reflection, indeed, with the birth of Dylan Thomas and with parallel celebrations by the Hong Kong Planning Institute for 35 years and the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists for its 50 years.Plan Hor Health

Firstly I’d like to pay particular thanks to the Presidential Team  and all the staff at the Institute, including Tino, James, Maria, Ellie, Suzanne and Joshua in Communications, Judith and Marion for support on international matters, our Managing Director, Sara, Trudi as Chief Executive and the many committed staff both in Botolph Lane and in the regions and nations.

Slide 3– Centenary Timeline

I’d also like to pay tribute to the Centenary Planning subgroup, to fellow Board members and colleagues on the General Assembly and to all our members active in the regions and nations, who have helped to make our centenary special for all our members and to raise the profile of planning in the community.

Slide 4 – Oral History

I’d like to thank the Past Presidents for their support and in particular to thank Martin Willey for his considerable and quiet efforts on the oral history project. The centenary timeline and the oral histories are an excellent record, well worth visiting the web site.

I’d also like to thank staff in Pembrokeshire County Council for entering into the spirit of the Centenary ….. Tracking the progress of Santa’s sleigh has nothing on the Development Plans and Conservation Team‘s tracking of Presidential  progress around the British Isles and the Globe – and of course their standing in for my many and varied absences.

Lastly I think it must be more of an apology to my long suffering family and friends, for my many absences over the centenary year.

It sounds like an Awards acceptance speech doesn’t it? ….. and yes we picked up one such on our travels.

Slide 5: APA Award and certificate

In standing for election I committed to:

  • encouraging the active engagement of members,
  • securing good quality, value for money opportunities for continuing professional development,
  • supporting new entrants into the profession,
  • working collaboratively to secure a profession to be proud of and
  • raising appreciation of the role of planning and of professional planners in securing the positive differences that good planning can make in shaping people’s communities and lives.

I committed to supporting the incoming President (Colin) and Senior Vice President (Peter) and to leading the Institute in its Centenary Year, in a way that is meaningful to members, representative of the Regions and Nations, effective in influencing government and raises the positive profile of planning.

Well the lead in period was a bit of a bumpy ride, but I do hope I managed to support Colin and Peter in their successful Presidencies.

On my inauguration this time last year I pledged

  • that I would give it my very best as your President
  • that we would have an exceptional year centenary year in which we could be proud of the Institute, proud of Planners and proud of Planning.

I reflected on the long gap since the previous President from Wales, Ewart Parkinson. Nearly 40 years on its been gratifying to note that recently Ewart has been awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for services to Community and that it won’t take another 38 years before the next president from Wales …… Phil Williams joins the Presidential Team as Vice President.  Phil can’t be with us today as he’s actively engaged with Northern Ireland elected members and Planners today in Cardiff as part of the preparations for this year’s transfer of Planning powers.

I called for us to grasp the opportunities of the centenary:

  • To improve public, interdisciplinary and government understanding of the power of planning for good
  • To empower the Institute by more active member engagement
  • To reinforce the Institute’s role in leading thinking and brokering dialogue
  • To set the context for the long term vision of the profession for our second century;
  • To be Proud of Planners and Proud of Planning.

How did we do?

We celebrated the exceptional contributions of members through

  • Awards to members for Outstanding Service;
  • Presenting The Gold Medal to Alison Nimmo;

Slide 6:          Alison Nimmo

  • by cementing our relationship with our honorary members into ‘lifetime memberships’, with many certificates presented at the RTPI centenary concert held in Exeter Cathedral in March and
  • 4 new honorary members – Mitch Silver, past president of APA and Dyan Currie, past President of PIA, Paul Farmer and our very own Judith Eversley.

Slide 7:          Centenary Concert, Exeter Cathedral

One centenary project celebrated our maturing new Towns and Garden Suburbs. It has been great to hear from early residents on the differences that new towns made to quality of life and to life chances – at Cumbernauld, Redditch and Cwmbran, to meet Planners rising to the challenge of continuing the relevance into new projects, as at Letchworth, Runcorn, Shenley and New Earswick

Slide 8:          Hampstead Garden Suburb / Cumbernauld,

Slide 9:          Shenley / Derwenthorpe / Runcorn

I’ve thoroughly appreciated the achievements of Planners in delivering major developments,

  • bringing together complex remediation / reclamation / regeneration projects delivering infrastructure, housing, employment and community facilities and as at Waverley and Derwenthorpe;
  • Supporting Planners in Project Management and Skills Development;
  • Challenging proposals to secure improved outcomes, as with HS2;
  • Regeneration through conservation;

Slide   10: Northern Ireland / Leicester - Richard III cartoon

  • Regeneration through education and culture change – new campuses at Belfast , Hong Kong and Grangegorman for Dublin Institute of Technology , new libraries at Aberdeen University and in Birmingham;

Slide 11         Hong Kong / Belfast

Slide 12         Grangegorman, Dublin

Slide 13          Libraries – Aberdeen, Birmingham

  • And of Planners and elected members in preparing for change in Northern Ireland

Slide 14         Northern Ireland, preparing for change

In the year that all students on accredited course have been offered free membership of the Institute it has been informative to meet students, at Heriot Watt, Newcastle and Nottingham  and Young Planners in Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Hong Kong, Sydney, London and at the national YP Conference in Bristol and to feel the enthusiasm and energy to take on major challenges and feeding into our Future Ambassadors’ Project.

In the year that all students on accredited course have been offered free membership of the Institute it has been informative to meet students, at Heriot Watt, Newcastle and Nottingham  and Young Planners in Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Hong Kong, Sydney, London and at the national YP Conference in Bristol and to feel the enthusiasm and energy to take on major challenges and feeding into our Future Ambassadors’ Project.

Slide 15:        Young Planners – Cardiff, Queens’ University Belfast, Liverpool Waters, Nottingham Trent and Hong Kong

Slide 16:   Future Ambassadors

Special mention goes to Alison Wright, Young Planner of the Year and Ian Stevens for their first class presentations at the APA conference in Atlanta in April.

From the strategic to the individual, I was delighted this weekend to hear that I had inspired someone to submit for Associate membership.

Policy Futures / Horizons Projects has been a roadshow with a difference – roundtables across the country engaged members in our 5 themed papers, with work in progress presented to international conferences in Sydney and Atlanta and to a public seminar in Hong Kong and the published Papers presented in conferences in Cardiff (Thinking Spatially), London (Future Proofing Society), Glasgow (Promoting Healthy Cities), Derry (Leadership and Governance)  and Dublin (Creating Economically Successful Places).

Slide 17:  Policy Horizon

I’ve very much appreciated meeting Planners and hearing about their challenges in delivering Excellence and improvement…..

  • At the RTPI International Awards and Scotland’s Best Places,

Slide 18:   Scotland’s Best Places- Falkirk Wheel

  • In Hampstead, Bristol, Birmingham, Norwich, South Downs National Park, Wooller, Barnards Castle, North Shields, Seaham, Brougton Astley and Blaby,
  • At the Planning Inspectorate and Pleanala.

Slide   19:  Patsy Healey / Glendale Trust North Shields, Runcorn

Slide 20:        North Shields, Abercrombie London Plan 70+, Broughton Astley NP

  • And to see some of the more unusual jobs in which our members are engaged.

Slide 21: GA member Brett at work

We have worked tirelessly to influence the political agenda around planning – crucial conversations at all 3 ‘main party’ conferences – and yes folks I did say that to the former Minister for Planning in Scotland  just days after the referendum and growth in SNP membership!!  – meetings with politicians and the Parliamentary Receptions in Edinburgh and London.

I have very much appreciated the opportunity to represent the Institute internationally, the work being done by ECTP to progress the European Charter, to celebrate the Hong Kong Institute’s 35 years, with a public seminar and to take forward the Planning Horizons work in conferences in Sydney and Atlanta and in meetings with APA Board and the Global Planners’ Network.

Slide 22 – ECTP Berlin

Slide 23 – Hong Kong, with PIA President and Atlanta Workshop, with Trudi, Ann Skippers, Alison Wright and Ian Stevens

In Wales we celebrated the centenary by collectively circumnavigating Wales: Planners, colleagues, family and friends, taking on some 1170 miles between us.

We shared our centenary in Wales with that of the birth of Dylan Thomas:

‘We are not wholly bad or good

Who live our lives under Milkwood,

And thou, I know, would be the first

To see our best side, not our worst.’

Thankfully the RTPI operates on a 1 year Presidency, drawing strength in operating as a presidential team, and in the different strengths, interests and specialisms of individual Presidents from year to year, so the membership only has to endure a single year of seeing my best side, not my worst!

On my travels this year trains and boats and planes ….Funicular, buses, trams and cable car, trains, trains and more trains I have had company – thank you to the Station Manager at Stockport Station, for making me a cup of coffee when the New measurement Train got a bit overzealous and broke down in front of mine.  Thankyou also to my companions on social media – special mention to @Planningclaire for stealing one of my all too rare days off – with a delightful ‘fringe’ tour of Aberdeen @borninrottenrow for inspiring me to visit his birthplace and to @ebenezor for making me laugh after I had my suitcase – and that favourite red dress – stolen and @rtpiplanners for feeding me up when I ran out of blood!

Slide 25:        Travels, transport, @Ebenezor,

In the year ahead I look forward to spending a bit more time with family and friends, to using my holiday to re-visit some of those places where I could have spent ‘much more than an hour’, to walking some of the remaining 1120 miles of the Wales circumnavigation and maybe even reading a book or two – perhaps Candy Chang’s ‘Before I Die’, an inspirational speaker at the APA Atlanta conference.

Slide 26:        Coast Path, ‘Have no plans, Sounds like a Plan’

Slide 27:        Candy Chang

And now – enough of me –

Slide 28 – Janet – tips on what not to do;

Slide 29 – Janet and incoming Chairs, Regions and Nations / Quote

To quote TS Eliot 'For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.

For 2015 that ‘other voice’ is that of Janet Askew.  Janet has the enormous challenge of capturing the energy and momentum of the centenary year and propelling us forward with renewed purpose and vigour.