RTPI at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham
In order to deliver the needs and unmet aspirations of the community, so clearly brought to the fore during the EU referendum, planning will have to play a more central role in order for politicians to deliver their promises. For planners to do this, politicians must share our vision for planning.
During this year’s party conferences, the Institute effectively championed the case for a well-resourced, plan-led planning system. Chartered Planners are at its heart, creating well planned places and vibrant communities.
There was agreement at the Institute’s well attended events at the UK Labour and Conservative Party Conferences about the need for more to be done to empower planners. Politicians acknowledged it is planners who have the skills necessary to deliver homes which are well connected by transport, adequately served by infrastructure and located near jobs and facilities. They all understood the system requires better resourcing and a more positive approach to the profession.
It wasn’t just politicians we were busy engaging with, for example, during a SNP Conference roundtable the Institute co-hosted, there was cross sector agreement on an “empowered and effective” planning system.
While attending and running events at the conferences is incredibly valuable, they are just one aspect of the Institute’s ongoing strategy for engaging with politicians. For example, we have engaged with nearly 20 members of the Scottish Parliament in the last couple of months and delivered evidence in parliament – no mean feat for a small team. While our Chief Exec and Vice President met with the Housing and Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell to understand his priorities.
We also briefed MPs ahead of the 2nd reading debate of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill in Westminster and have subsequently provided oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee. This is in addition to the huge number of legislative briefings and government consultation responses we’ve already delivered (and will continue to deliver) this year.
We’re not just speaking with politicians ‘on their turf’ but on ours too. The RTPI Scotland Annual Conference, recently held in Paisley, provided another opportunity to engage with both councillors and the Scottish Government (the Chief Planner briefed delegates on the Planning White Paper). While in London, our Annual London Planning Summit last week heard from James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Regeneration – allowing us to build on our already strong relationship with the Greater London Authority.
Similarly, our upcoming annual politicians in planning conference will give us the opportunity to empower councilors with the skills and knowledge to make better planning decisions. This will build on the success of similar conferences held across the UK, including in the East of England.
The highlight of our engagement comes this year is our Parliamentary Reception at the end of November. We’re expecting up to 200 politicians, planners, developers, civil servants and key stakeholders to attend to network and discuss key policy issues in Westminster.
Until then, we’re working on our response to the Autumn Statement and looming Housing White Paper in Westminster and the Scottish Government’s Planning Review. While in Wales we’re closely monitoring the Welsh Government’s implementation of its Programme for Government and commitment to deliver 20,000 affordable homes. As we carry out our work our ambition to have politicians share our vision for planning is always in the back of our minds, so that we can help our members create the communities and places this country is calling out for.
Josh Rule is Communications and Public Affairs Officer at the RTPI.