Skip to main content
Close Menu Open Menu

Joel Cohen: Change is afoot but planning reform has a future

Senior Public Affairs Officer, Joel Cohen, explains how the RTPI have made an impact at this year’s party conferences.

As the saying goes: may you live in interesting times. Looking at the UK’s politics, our economy and judging from this year’s party conferences: sometimes too interesting.

Our new government has a new (and newly altered) flagship growth policy, a newly uncertain economic outlook and public opinion polls are returning a new preference for Kier Starmer’s Labour Party.

This pace of change is why the RTPI have been camped out in Liverpool and Birmingham over the last two weeks. The Labour and Conservative party conferences offer important opportunities for us to raise the profile of planning, but also to shape the debate, reflecting our member’s experiences and reminding decision-makers and their advisers about the most urgent priorities for the planning profession.

This year the RTPI added new roundtables to our normal roster of panel discussions on a range of subjects and we’ve covered a wide range of topics like sustainable development and levelling up to balancing local priorities, engaging communities and building better.

What we heard was a re-affirmation of commitments to planning reform from both political parties.

Emboldened by new polling, Keir Starmer’s conference speech emphasised a commitment to home ownership and planning reform. It was also clear that the Levelling Up department under Lisa Nandy’s leadership would prioritise housing and devolution – which is good news for planning.

Beyond the psycho-drama, our fourth Housing Minister of 2022, Lee Rowley MP also made clear that government will continue to value a strong plan-led system and that the department is working hard to provide new detail like Sunday’s publication of the Investment Zones expression of interest guidance.

Less than a month in post, he spent conference in listening mode. But what he has heard - in nearly every discussion and from every part of our sector - is that resources for planning are a must, not a nice to have; strategic planning is a tool to be strengthened, and; planning is an enabler, not a blocker, to growth.

Building strong relationships and demonstrating our expertise are key parts of the RTPI’s corporate strategy and at this year’s events, we’ve taken opportunities to thank the politicians who’ve publicly supported planners and recruited new allies who are committed to helping us weather the political and economic headwinds in future.

As you’ll have seen from our recent dispatches on social media, its also been fantastic to see RTPI members joining us to intervene in countless discussions on housing, planning and related issues.

Bringing it all together, we’ve been privileged to have the support of our fantastic presidential team, with Immediate Past President, Wei Yang, joining our small staff in Liverpool and Vice President, Sue Bridge, taking up the mantle in Birmingham.

When parliament returns next week – and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill returns with it – there will be more politicians and more organisations aware of what matters to planners and better able to support us through the changes that are to come.

Photo above shows Vice President Sue Bridge meeting Housing Minister Lee Rowley


But for now take a look here at a few snapshots of our highlights over the last few weeks:




















Back to top