Timothy Crawshaw MA MRTPI FRSA is President of the RTPI (2022).
The South East Region put together a packed programme starting in the great city of Oxford. The challenges of working in a highly significant historic context are being deftly handled by an ambitious Council with great outcomes on the ground including significant amounts of tenure blind affordable housing, the retrofitting of existing arcades and shopping streets, and an extension to the historic Jesus college and the Westgate Centre. High quality development is being guided by a proactive team of planners.
Visiting the students and staff at Oxford Brookes University was a real treat with a chance to share the experience of being a practitioner with the next generation of planners and providing an opportunity for questions and debate. In promoting the benefits of membership to students it was a great reminder of the value of the Institute at all stages of a career and hopefully they will convert student membership to full Chartered status in the future!
Reading provided the setting for the second day. Alongside the ambitious Station Hill Masterplan, a great example of a strong local Council team working with a developer to secure some great outcomes, we enjoyed and were informed by a tour of historic sites that provided surprises at every turn, alongside some key regeneration opportunities, including the former jail where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated. Crucially, Reading Council recognise the value of the wider historic offer as a key part of the curation of place.
Reading University hosted the afternoon where I was delighted to see their approach to energy and district heating demonstrating what is possible in sometimes limited space. Boasting an energy centre and future ambitions for borehole heat pumps, the heat network, despite being gas fired, is still providing low carbon warmth and electricity. The campus is also a great example of the creative re-use and retrofitting of existing mid twentieth century architecture. The day ended with a lovely reception where we met staff and students.