In his inaugural speech as RTPI President, John Acres MRTPI, spoke of planning’s role in improving people’s lives and creating a better society through tackling some of its biggest challenges – conserving scarce resources, reducing inequalities and in tackling poverty and climate change.
He sees young planners – who he wants to inspire to share his passion for planning – playing a vital role in delivering a better future because they have ‘new ideas…are more in touch with emerging trends and are in connection with the generation coming along behind’.
The power of planning
Mr Acres spoke about the power of planning – that it should not just be seen as a regulatory activity, but as a ‘relief and maybe even a cure for the ills of society’.
He went on to say it is about ‘getting things done’:
“The power of planning lies in its impartiality - to make fair, objective and logical decisions not just for the benefit of individuals, or companies, but for the benefit of our diverse communities and society as a whole.
“Planning is the glue which holds the decision-making process together, it is the oil which smooths the economy and it is the fuel which facilitates positive change.
“Planning can shape places, support the economy at every level, and help make communities more resilient.”
Raising the profile of planning
Despite the central role it plays, he is concerned planning is not always as visible as other professions such as architecture and engineering:
“We may not win awards for iconic buildings or bridges. After all, planning does not just focus on the functioning, design and appearance of buildings and structures. It builds on the partnership between professions to make things happen and create better places. It’s about renewal and regeneration, and the integration of society, the economy and the environment.”
He said he hoped to raise the profile of planning during his upcoming visits to all the English Regions, nations of the UK and Ireland.
Mr Acres observed that Brexit is overshadowing many of the pressing social and economic issues in our society. He said the RTPI will need to carefully plan for the outcome of the Brexit deal, saying:
“This is vital in terms of funding infrastructure, securing jobs, retaining flexible skills, and ensuring that we maintain high quality environmental standards – and ensure that Ireland and Northern Ireland continue to live and function in harmony.”
Big changes for planning during his presidency
But Brexit won’t stop the changes coming to the planning systems in each of the nations of the UK:
“In England we look forward to a review of our National Planning Policy Framework this spring. In Scotland there is a new Planning Bill now going through the Scottish Parliament. In Wales, we are undertaking a review of the Value of Planning and in Ireland a new Planning Framework is emerging. Northern Ireland is currently adapting to a new Local Plan system.”
Passion for planning
He drew his speech to a close by sharing his ‘passion for planning’:
“It is a tough challenge, but we don’t become planners to be popular. There are bound to be frustrations, even tensions. But you know, I can’t think of a more worthwhile profession to be involved in.”
John Acres MRTPI is the 2018 RTPI President and was inaugurated in a ceremony held in central London on 17 January 2018.