Phil Williams, President of the RTPI, made an impassioned plea at its annual planning convention yesterday for politicians to value the role of planners and planning, and to engage in an overdue debate on what kind of system the UK, especially England, really needs.
He said the RTPI would continue to put forward evidence of the value of planning, and lobby politicians to stop side-lining planning through a new programme of work entitled Better Planning.
An impassioned plea
Mr Williams said:
“The issues that many people expressed during the EU debate relating to migration and population growth, unaffordable housing, the pressure on health and educational services, the need for economic growth….require planned solutions. In addition, the referendum results highlight the great divisions between the different nations of the UK and the regions of England in terms of their needs and unfulfilled aspirations.
"It is time for us to say – as an Institute, and as a profession – in a stronger voice than we have before, that successive governments have been taking us in the wrong direction.
“That 30 or so years of planning reform, especially in England, have undermined the ability of planners to deliver [the economic and social benefits the country needs].
“That endless reform has not produced better places, better growth, better housing, better communities and more reform along the old familiar lines will not change this.
“That we need a fundamentally different approach that recognises, supports and invests in the benefits that planning can deliver.
“That it’s time to value planning - after all, there is no better solution.”
We need a fundamentally different approach that recognises, supports and invests in the benefits that planning can deliver.
Planners fighting against the odds
He recounted the many impressions he had during his Presidential visits to date of the commitment, capability and enthusiasm planners have made to deliver sustainable solutions to communities.
He went on to praise the many achievements of planners against the odds:
“It is almost miraculous that despite the almost constantly moving planning ‘goal posts’ we have still been able to create fantastic developments across the country. These developments are enabled through planners being allowed to demonstrate leadership - to do what we are good at – bringing together people, partners and politicians to make great places.”
“My Inauguration Speech in January echoed the need for a better interface between planners and politicians at all levels to better support nations and regions. That was pertinent and relevant in January – it is arguably even more so since the referendum decision last week. I call on politicians to recognise the value of planning and work with us going forward. A national Planning Debate in my view is imperative.”
Report on the value of planning to be launched in the summer
He signalled the publication of a major RTPI report this summer, produced with the leading accredited planning schools at Sheffield and Glasgow universities.
The report will criticise the way the UK has failed to recognise the value of planning in practice and will cite examples across England to add to the evidence that, if delivered with the right support and resources, planning is critical to better places, better growth, better housing and better communities.
Listen to Phil Williams' full speech at the 2016 Planning Convention.