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Joel Cohen: Planning is now firmly part of the conversation

Joel Cohen is Senior Public Affairs Officer at the RTPI.

Planning is now firmly part of the national conversation and RTPI has been acting on the behalf of members to help to inform and shape that discussion.

Since the publication of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill the team has been working hard to ensure that the voice of planners is heard throughout the Palace of Westminster and inside the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). We have been cited a record number of times by the House of Commons library and our Chief Executive, Victoria Hills, has appeared as a witness before the DLUHC select committee and the Bill committee. It is essential that we engage in this way to ensure that your voice is heard as the Bill makes its way into law.

However, it is not just the national level where the conversation needs to take place nor only where the voices of planners need to be heard. It is for that reason that I am writing this post from a sunny Harrogate at the Local Government Association’s annual conference.

It is vital that locally elected officials understand the importance and power of the planning system, what changes may be on their way and why we at the RTPI need to be open to discussion and challenge from local leaders. To that end we have hosted a round table session of our Politicians in Planning Network. Council Leaders, developers and planners were able to come together in an open forum and share their experience of planning, vent some of their frustrations and listen to the policy changes that could impact their decision making.

The wide-ranging discussion focussed on the areas where local ambition may vary or even be at odds with the national ambitions of levelling up, what can be done to empower planners and what opportunities or barriers there may be through greater devolution of power.

It was also an opportunity for the RTPI to share some of the important work we have been undertaking to make the profession more visible. This included sharing links to our Levelling Up Hub and a briefing on our policy for Green Growth Boards.

Immediate past president Dr Wei Yang was also able to speak to the group about some of the opportunities and challenges that the profession faces, such as resourcing, the new powers included in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and the important idea that planners need a seat at the top table of local government if they are to live up to their role as the lead domino in levelling up and delivering positive outcomes for communities.

While this session of the Politicians in Planning Network is our first face to face event since we launched I hope that it illustrates the value of the network and will help it  go from strength to strength. I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in this space to sign up to be part of the network and hopefully I will see you all at the next event.

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