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June has been an exciting and busy month for the RTPI Presidential team and the opportunity to be in two places almost at once has extended our reach considerably, as you will see from this report.

So, what have we been doing in June 2020? We have set out below a report highlighting some of the activities which we have been involved in and hope you will find interesting and enjoyable to read.

On 9 June 2020 I was delighted to undertake a ‘virtual’ visit to the South West region. The visit was focused on the Southmead area of Bristol. The area had been the focus of a community led regeneration scheme. Guided by an approach that saw people as the best solution to their problems, Southmead Development Trust and the local community were keen to involve everyone. This included the community interviewing the successful masterplanning team of Nash Partnership and Streets Reimagined for three days before confirming their appointment. Another key stakeholder in the process was Bristol City Council with the Mayor of Bristol is keen to empower local communities in identifying their own needs. Three months of intensive community engagement workshops, structured sessions, street stall events and going out ‘to where people are’ provided a clear understanding of what would work and what would not. Momentum built and by the end of the three months a masterplan for 300 new houses and community uses had been produced. This masterplan now has planning permission. The project was a winner of the RTPI South West Awards. For Planning Excellence.  My ‘virtual visit’ is available for everyone to view - I cannot commend it to you enough. 

On the same day, Ian Tant, Immediate Past President, took part in the inception meeting with consultants RSK for the start of work on the RTPI’s Climate Action Plan.  RSK will be working with the Institute over the coming weeks to identify our current carbon footprint and bring forward an Action Plan to reduce and offset our impact over the coming decade of the Corporate Strategy.

The following day I chaired the first virtual RTPI General Assembly meeting. After much hard work preparing for the event, everything went well on the day. The meeting included reports from the Chair of the Board and the Chief Executive and covered a wide range of matters from the RTPI’s response to COVID-19, its public support for Black Lives Matter and stamping out racism through to the work of the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee. But perhaps the highlight of the day was the presentation of the RTPI Gold Medal Award to Paul Barnard MBE, BA (Hons), MPA, MRTPI, CIHM. The Gold Medal is open to all classes of membership internationally. It has only been awarded 15 times in the RTPI’s history. Past recipients include Sir Patrick Abercrombie, Sir Terry Farrell and Sir Peter Hall. The Gold Medal Award recognised Paul Barnard as an ‘exceptional’ town planner, whose leadership, planning expertise, ability to innovate and sheer determination have resulted in planning services at Plymouth City Council now being considered amongst the best in the country. My congratulations to Paul.

In the evening of the 10th June, Ian attended a virtual meeting of the Executive of the Commonwealth Association of Planners, in his role as the UK Vice President.

On 11 June I was joined by Wei Yang and Victoria Hills at an online Global Planners Network (GPN) event. The GPN is a powerful coming together of professional organisations involved in planning across the world (including CAP). The Royal Town Planning Institute is a key member of the GPN. Sharing ideas and responses to the challenges that planners face across the world is at the heart of the Global Planners Network, which collectively represents over 100,000 planners. At its last meeting in February 2020 members of the GPN signed the Abu Dhabi declaration. On 11 June 2020 members came together again to discuss how to take this and other shared challenges forward. It was agreed that priorities for action would focus on sharing resources and actions to tackle the impacts of COVID 19, address issues surrounding equality, diversity and inclusivity and raising awareness of the value and importance of good planning.

On 18 June I was privileged to be a part of the RTPI Scotland’s Sir Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture 2020 The speaker, Katherine Trebeck left the 250 participants buzzing as she spoke about “Shaping the new normal with a wellbeing economy: The role for place and planning”. With momentum growing for us all to think about a ‘new normal’, the desire for an economy that serves people, planet and equity is increasingly seen as increasingly important; an end to growth in and of itself and a recognition that our economy is just one way to achieve the ultimate ends we seek: good lives on a healthy planet. Katherine explained what is different about a 'wellbeing economy', why it is important and how we can achieve it. Brilliantly chaired by Scotland Convenor Irene Beautyman, the question and answer session that followed was thought provoking and shone further light on the subject. The lecture has been recorded and is available below. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

On the 22nd June, Ian took part in a virtual meeting of the Construction Industry Council’s Climate Change Panel, which he attends in his role as the Climate Change Champion for the Board of Trustees.

In response to an invitation from the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP),Victoria Hills, Wei Yang, Ian Tant and I joined the launch by HRH Prince Charles of an exciting series of online sessions which focus on the theme of sustainable urbanisation in the Commonwealth. HRH Prince Charles, patron of the Royal Town Planning Institute, spoke of the need to recognise the opportunity these unprecedented times represent to deliver a recovery that puts inclusive and genuinely sustainable places at the centre, adding that the crisis had seen an appreciation of place and local community; a theme amplified by the other eminent speakers. With nearly 50% of the projected increase in the world’s urban population to 2050 forecast to be in the Commonwealth, there has never been a more important time for members to come together to tackle the challenges of climate change and rapid urbanisation; challenges which have been compounded by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. The series of events, organised by CAP together with its partners the Commonwealth Association of Architects, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and the Commonwealth Association of Universities, runs to September.

CAP and its partners also launched the findings of a survey of the Built Environment Professions in the Commonwealth. More information on this and the online events can be found here.

On 25th June I was honoured and delighted to present Hannah Bluntstone MRTPI and Philip Ridley MRTPI with the Royal Town Planning Institute Outstanding Service Award for their work in championing and leading the design and development of the Chartered Town Planner Degree Apprenticeship. Hannah who is a Director of Planning at CBRE UK and Philip who is Head of Planning and Coastal Management at East Suffolk Council, are the first RTPI members in 2020 to receive Outstanding Service Awards. These Awards are presented to members who have exhibited sustained, outstanding and active service to the Institute. Hannah and Philip’s innovative leadership of the employer-led Trailblazer group, which was set up to lead the process and secure government backing for the apprenticeship, was key to its success. Apprenticeships play an important role in attracting diverse local into the profession. Thanks to the hard work of Hannah, Philip and members of the Trailblazer group, 190 young planners have taken up degree apprenticeships at RTPI-accredited planning schools.

Perhaps the biggest event for June was the Planner Live 2020, a week of webinars, debate and discussion on planning for the post pandemic recovery. The timing of this major online event could not have been better. If you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to listen to the various events that took place online during the week – all of which are available on the RTPI You Tube channel.

Central to the Planner Live 2020, was the launch of the RTPI’s new campaign Plan The World We Need, which is targeted at governments within the UK, the media, stakeholders, influencers and indeed anyone who has an interest in the future of our places and spaces. Its purpose is to promote the key role of planners and planning in creating a better, greener Post COVID-19 world.

The campaign is underpinned by a report Plan The World We Need: The contribution of planning to a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery. Having heard the speech and read the report, I hope that you will play your part in the weeks and months to come by amplifying our social media calls using the #plantheworldweneed. A short film has been made to support the campaign (add link) which I hope you will watch and share, so that when we look back whether it be in 2021, 2025, 2030 or beyond, we can look back on what has changed and say that we made a difference.

To quote Lord Kerslake (The Guardian 29 June 2020) “As the country begins to emerge from the crisis, it is becoming clear that people want a better future … The moment we are in is a challenge to us all: to governments, businesses, civil society and citizens. But it is a challenge to which, together, we can rise and build something better.”