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Tony Crook: Planning research is in good health

Professor Tony Crook CBE FAcSS FRTPI is Chair, Education & Life Long Learning Committee

The RTPI is a learned society as well as a professional institute. It was one of the founding members of the national Academy of Social Sciences and its Royal Charter (quite rightly) obliges the Institute and hence all its members ‘to advance the science and art of planning (including town and country and spatial planning) for the benefit of the public’.

Research, including scholarship, is therefore a critical activity for the Institute and for all its members. Research involves critical thinking about the why and how of planning, investigating the effectiveness and impact of policy and practice, and ensuring research findings are disseminated to all members.

Planning research is undertaken widely by members including those in practice as well as those working in universities. Research undertaken in our planning schools is annually reviewed by the joint Partnership Boards which we have established to scrutinise and support teaching and research in all the 32 universities we accredit. Their research is also assessed by the regular Research Excellence Framework undertaken by the UK’s higher education funding bodies. The assessment looks at the impact of research as well as its quality across all disciplines in all universities. The most recent one, whose findings were published earlier this year, found planning research in our accredited universities was in good health .

As part of the RTPI’s new research strategy, we are working closely with all our accredited universities to build up a database of all university planning research and to work together with our planning schools to ensure this research is widely accessible to all working in the policy and practice communities, including through The Planner as well as the Institute’s learned journal Planning Theory and Practice.

Celebrating the excellence of planning research is also important. Each year the RTPI runs its own Research Excellence Awards and the short lists for each category have just been announced. These awards cover work done in practice as well as in universities and entrants for the awards are judged by joint panels of those working in practice as well as in academia. The winners and runners up will be announced by the President of the RTPI at the annual  Planning Research Conference to be held this year at the University of Manchester between the 5th and 7th September.

The short list awards cover a wide spread of planning research and can be found at: The short listed entries illustrate both the intellectual rigour of the work and its policy and practice relevance and cover: zero carbon homes; shorter term rentals; the housing needs of BAME households; density and isolation; mentally healthy spaces; levelling up on urban coasts and through logistics; delivering strategic sites; the geography of housing needs and permissions; tracking progress; appealing design; the traditional high street crisis; ride hailing; urban greenspace; offshore wind farms; and digital participation in planning.

Take a look at the short list: there is much for all us in planning to think about and learn from these entries.

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