A key highlight of the year for RTPI South East was the National Young Planners Conference, this year organised by our South Coast Young Planners Network Steering Group. RTPI South East Young Planner Representative, Angela Moore, tells us more...
Over the past year, a group of young planners from the South East region organised and hosted the RTPI's National Young Planners Conference which was held in Southampton from 9 - 10 October 2015. The group consisted of representatives from the South Coast Young Planner's Network (SCYPN), and were tasked with working alongside the RTPI to organise the event.
The theme of the conference was "Planning for Successful Places", and included 5 plenary sessions exploring different elements of this topic, as well as interactive workshop sessions and study tours. The plenary sessions covered topics including "Politics of Planning Places", "Place making under pressure - the Environmental Balance", "Planning for South Coast Communities", "Designing Successful Places" and "Planning for Growth". As this year's conference was located on the south coast, the SCYPN were keen to ensure that emphasis was placed on the issues and opportunities in our region, particularly in our south coast communities.
Over 200 young planning professionals attended the 2-day conference representing consultancies, local authorities, universities, and other private and public bodies. This provided excellent opportunity for networking and making new contacts with others within the profession.
The conference launched on the Thursday evening with a drinks reception hosted by Savills in their Southampton offices. David Jackson, Head of Planning at Savills welcomed the 50 or so guests, and provided some opening remarks.
Day 1 of the conference (Friday 9thOctober) was opened by Lucy Seymour-Bowdary (SCYPN Chair), followed by an opening address by Councillor Simon Letts, Leader of Southampton City Council. This was followed by 3 plenary sessions interspersed with a choice of 6 workshop sessions. More details of the five plenary sessions covered over the 2 days can be viewed below.
On the evening of the first day around 150 delegates reconvened for the 3-course Gala Dinner, kindly sponsored by WYG and No5 Chambers. Entertainment on the night included unlimited use of the photo-booth, the 'plannergram' quiz; a competition ran by WYG to win an Apple Watch; and a live band to dance the night away to.
Day 2 commenced at 10am the next morning, and revellers from the night before were welcomed with coffee and a bacon sandwich. The second day consisted of 2 plenary sessions, and after lunch, a choice of 6 study tours around Southampton and Winchester.
Early feedback has suggested that the conference was a huge success, and enjoyed and valued by those in attendance. The 2016 National Young Planners Conference will be hosted by Northern Ireland Young Planners, and will be held in Belfast on 14/15th October 2016.
Plenary Session 1: Politics of Planning Places
The RTPI's Chief Executive Trudi Elliott was the first presenter of the conference, fresh from attending Labour and Conservative party conferences over the previous two weeks. She provided the current political and legislative context planners are currently working in. She stressed the significant amount of change in the planning system over the past 5 years and the large number of changes proposed. Andrew Whitaker, Planning Director at the Home Builders Federation also discussed the political context, noting that you have to explain to politicians 'if you have planning permission today, you don't necessarily have houses built tomorrow'. Professor Gavin Parker, University of Reading discussed the politics of neighbourhood planning saying that neighbourhood plans and localism are a microcosm of planning generally.
Plenary Session 2: Place making under pressure: The Environmental Balance
Alethea Evans, Principal Planner at Essex County Council opened by reminding delegates not to forget that planning for minerals and waste is fundamental to planning generally, it is critical for example to supporting housing development as we need minerals to build houses and a plan for the waste created by households. Delegates also heard from Simon Boswell, Senior Ecologist at Ecological Survey and Assessment Limited - about the importance of identifying site ecological constraints early to avoid delays, the importance of minimising compromises to design, and to seek to maximise biodiversity opportunities. While Tim Stanley, Planning Director at South Downs National Park told delegates that national parks should not be viewed as a barrier to development but must strongly consider its impact on the landscape.
Plenary Session 3: Planning for South Coast Communities
Donna Moles, Senior Planning Officer at Arun District Council spoke about the creation of Neighbourhood Plans. Donna noted the particularly high take-up and interest in Neighbourhood Planning in the south, with Arun District Council having the highest number of 'made' Neighbourhood Plans in the country. Bryan Jezeph, Managing Director of Bryan Jezeph Consultancy reminded the audience of young planners that few developers offer housing that caters adequately for the elderly, and that 90% live in mainstream housing, not always suitable to their needs as they grow older. Finally, Catriona Riddell, Director of Catriona Riddell Associates focussed her presentation on the changing methods of strategic planning following the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies. Catriona spoke of the need for a wider, more regional view, and the importance of collaborative working.
Plenary Session 4: Designing Successful Places
Mario Wolf from the Department of Communities and Local Government (and currently seconded to the National Custom and Self-Build Association) used local and international case studies to demonstrate how custom and self-build homes can contribute to the creation of successful places. Craig McLaren, RTPI Director of Scotland and Ireland, travelled to Southampton from Edinburgh for the day to give an insight into last year's Scotland's Great Places initiative to highlight the characteristics of successful places in Scotland and what can be applied to replicate this success in England. Dr Samer Bagaeen - Planning School, University of Brighton - focused on urban design and architecture; showcasing UK and International examples to demonstrate how good design is a key aspect of sustainable and successful development.
Plenary Session 5: Planning for Growth
Viral Desai - Planning Consultant from AMEC Foster Wheeler and the RTPI's Young Planner of the Year, opened the final plenary session urging young planners not to be blinded by the current economic growth mantra and remember to plan for strong social and environmental outcomes. Visiting Professor at UCL Bartlett School of Planning, Dr Janice Morphet commented on the UK Government's Productivity Plan and contrasted infrastructure planning in the UK with Europe showing its relative inadequacy. And finally, Andrew McMunnigal - Senior Policy and Project Officer at the Greater London Authority contrasted London's economic growth with the rest of the UK looking at its strengths but also its threats and constraints.