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Bethany Jones: Where have the last three years gone?

My time as Chair of the East of England Young Planners Committee.

Where have the last three years gone?! When I took on the role of Chair of the East of England Young Planners (YP) Committee, I didn’t think I’d be in the role for so long, but what a truly incredible three years it’s been. 

Since our establishment in 2020, the committee has continued to go from strength to strength. We’ve had some members come and go (although they still attend our monthly social #PlanPals regularly despite being outside of the region) and we couldn’t be in a stronger position than we are right now. We now have a committee of 11 members covering nearly every regional hub and spanning the private sector, local authorities and house builders. We have nearly doubled our committee size over Summer 2022 and are almost at full capacity. Though there is still the opportunity to join as we are always looking to welcome new members.

I’m so proud of the committee and everything that’s been achieved over the last three years. We’ve continued to host “Bridging the Gap” a webinar series bringing academic research to the forefront of planners working in the industry. Our most recent edition of this, explored Biodiversity Net Gain from a social perspective had over 170 attendees, its easily our most popular webinar event ever! 

Our monthly social, #PlanPals continues to have new attendees every month and has certainly been a great way to help YPs in the region grow their connections and create a “safe space” to ask questions and help YPs working in Local Authorities to engage with the RTPI. It also helps those in the private sector understand the pressures local authority planners and provides a sounding board for those completing their dissertations or going through the APC process. With many attendees of #Plan Pals now also attending in person events, it’s a great way to know there will be a familiar face there!

We have also finally got back to in person events with our recent APC Workshop in Cambridge and walking tour of the award winning Goldsmith Street development in Norwich. We have our Christmas Social today (14 December,) which I know will be a great opportunity to celebrate our success and begin looking forward to our 2023 events programme.

Aside from events, we have also raised the profile of the regional Young Planner of the Year Award. This began in 2021 where I hosted an online event to gain an insight into the life of some of our award winning Young Planners, at both the regional and national level. This momentum continued with the 2022 Regional Awards at Hylands House, Chelmsford where we had 3 finalists, Melissa Balk, Christian Cardiss and Maria Hennessy. This is a great way to celebrate the success of individual Young Planners in our region, and I can’t wait to see who will be joining us as regional winners in 2023!

Despite all of these successes, for me one of the greatest achievements has been reaching the goal I set of being in a position to bid for the Young Planners Conference. We may not have been successful this time around, but it’s given the committee an even greater drive and determination to be successful next time. I’m confident we will be seeing the Young Planners Conference in the East of England for the first time in the next few years, especially while I can still attend! 

The young planners learn more about the Goldsmith Street development

I’ll always be incredibly grateful to the Regional Activities Committee (RAC) for their confidence to nominate me for Young Planner Chair. I’d like to thank each and everyone of you for your incredible support. The relationship between the YP and RAC has always been strong in the East, I’m pleased to have continued that through or collaboration on events such as the Mental Health and Wellbeing Event in May 2021 and of course Tim’s Presidential Visit in June, where we got to explore the likes of Albert Square at the BBC Elstree Studios. 

There have been so many opportunities from being YP Chair, presenting at the Regional Awards, Transport East Summit, online and in person events, and various careers fairs to name but a few. I’ve also been able to develop my leadership and management and public speaking skills which I regularly use in the day job. I’d encourage everyone to consider volunteering as the benefits are endless. As someone said to me before, time spent volunteering is time well spent, and I couldn’t agree more! 

Above all else, I’ve also had the opportunity to network and build my connections within the profession. Not only that but I’ve made friends from across the regions and nations, where attending events now has that extra social element. 

The time has finally come to pass the crown over to Christian Cardiss as YP Chair for 2023. I’m incredibly proud of the committee we have today and everything we’ve achieved over the years, it’s been one hell of a journey. I know the committee will continue to grow and thrive, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds for the East of England Young Planners.  

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