Skip to main content
Close Menu Open Menu

Counting the successes of the RTPI's Plan the World We Need campaign

By Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI

It is over three months since the RTPI launched its Plan the World We Need campaign on 29 June 2020 to highlight the essential role planners have in ensuring a sustainable, resilient and inclusive post-Covid recovery, which delivers on net-zero targets.

It has certainly been a busy three months and the campaign has already made a huge impact. But it has not been easy due, in part, to the government’s continued anti-planning rhetoric. Just this week the prime minister referred to the system as sclerotic. That was unjustified.

Without proper planning, developers will be given carte blanche to build in places which perpetuate care dependency and health-sapping deprivation, or deny neighbours of sunlight and daylight, erect tall buildings in the wrong places, houses in areas that may give little consideration to the health and wellbeing of people who live in them.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the huge inequalities in our society and laid bare the profound effect that a decade of austerity has had on local authorities and some of our poorest communities. Planning departments have been stripped bare across the land leaving them under-resourced and overwhelmed.

Planners ensure communities are involved in decisions that directly affect them. They make sure that communities have easy access to open green spaces and public transport links. They are our best hope in the drive to make sure carbon-free material is used to build houses, and energy-efficient systems are installed.

That is what Plan the World We Need is all about and it was encouraging to see the campaign given a special mention in the recent white paper published by the government. Much of the language in the white paper is supportive of planning having a holistic remit, seeking to achieve more than just narrow development management. So why the planner bashing rhetoric from some government figures continues is a mystery to me.

Separately, the government produced a thank-you note to the key contributors to the white paper, with a special mention for the RTPI. The campaign has also been referenced by several key Parliamentarians during the course of their work. This is welcome because we want to work with the government, not against them, to ensure its ‘levelling up’ ambitions can be realised.

As part of our campaign, a series of research papers has been published to promote our messages and drive home our ambitions for the future of this country.

These include the initial Plan the World We Need report in June, which has been well received by both RTPI members and elected representatives.

In Wales a parallel paper was published to examine how planning can contribute to calls for a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery from the current health and economic crisis in Wales. RTPI Wales also issued a statement welcoming the Welsh Government’s ‘Building Better Places’ report in July.

In Scotland, the campaign has been promoted through a series of meetings with key MSPs and spokespeople across all parties. RTPI Scotland has also landed our key messages in several responses to government consultations and in July signed an open letter with 27 other stakeholders, including some of Scotland’s most influential public and third-sector organisations, to call for the country to ‘walk back better’ as society reshapes following Covid-19.

And in Northern Ireland work has also been ongoing to promote the campaign.

We also launched our Enabling Healthy Placemaking report in July, highlighting seven ways planners can lead the way in creating healthy and sustainable communities. The links between town planning and good health have long been established and there is plethora of evidence proving that healthy places create health people who, in turn, are able to contribute to and build a healthy economy.

We issued a formal response to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2020 Progress report, calling for spatial planning to play a central role in reducing carbon emissions and also responded to DEFRA’S consultation on the England Tree strategy.

In September, we published the Planning Through Zoning research paper in response to proposals in the white paper and we also launched a guide to help planners understand how to reduce carbon emissions while also managing climate impacts such as flooding and overheating.

Just last week we issued a formal response to the government’s consultation on Changes to the current planning system, saying that its proposed new housing algorithm would cause more problems than it would solve.

We have also pubished a series of blogs as part of the campaign, which can be seen here.

To date we have had more than 30 separate pieces of coverage in national, local and trade press specifically on the Plan The World We Need campaign.

Our film promoting the campaign has been viewed more than 8,000 times on YouTube and we have broken records on social media. Most notably this tweet publicising my open letter in response to the government’s announcement of a ‘radical overhaul’ of England’s planning system received ten times the number of impressions we normally see for other tweets.

The second half of the campaign will see us issuing a formal response to the government’s white paper, publishing a report on the role of spatial planning in achieving net-zero transport and celebrating World Town Planning Day amongst other things.

The campaign is the golden thread running through all our communications, events, publications and meetings. It clearly articulates the successful foundations of good planning and what can be achieved with a well-resourced and structured planning system, namely to tackle the global challenges of climate change, social inequalities and the pandemic. It has provided the framework for considering proposed reforms for planning and has provided a coherent narrative for our external communications with a wide variety of audiences. I look forward to the continued success of our campaign beyond 2020 as it continues to remain relevant and influence our strategic thinking, impact, profile and influence.

Back to top