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Sue Bridge: Shaping the future of planning

The Royal Town Planning Institute is a democratically run organisation, always working to provide its members with the chance to shape their Institute. All RTPI members have an opportunity to participate in the Institute's decision-making process.

Although I have had a central role in shaping the RTPI in recent years, you may be surprised to learn that I didn’t become a member until 2008, when I was already well into my career as a planning professional. I had been hesitant to become a member, seeing it as something of an old boys club, an organisation that did not have anything to offer me. I changed my mind when a friend convinced me that the only way this would change was to change it myself from within. I became a trustee in 2016 after being on GA and the Policy Practice and Research Committee as a member, Vice Chair and then Chair. I was elected as Chair of the Board of Trustees in 2019 after serving a brief period as Vice Chair. As the Chair, I was fortunate to be able to shape the direction of the Institute by developing the 2020 – 2030 Corporate Strategy. I oversaw a major review of governance, drove forward significant investment in the RTPI's London office, and helped the Institute grow to 27,000 members. I stayed on as the Chair through my year as Vice President of the Institute in 2022.

In 2023, as President of the RTPI, I’ve been able to home in on the issues that I see as having the most impact on planning practitioners. I’ve placed the welfare of planners high up on my agenda, overseeing the launch of the RTPI's legal and well-being helplines across the UK, and the roll-out of the RTPI's upcoming welfare and misinformation campaign, which aims to tackle the harassment of planners both in person and online.

My role as President of the RTPI will come to a close in January 2024, but the elections for governance roles starting in January 2024 will soon be beginning, including the election for the Vice President who will be the President in 2025. On Monday 21 August, the elections to decide the next Vice President, members of the Board of Trustees, and the General Assembly will open. If you want to help drive the RTPI’s work for the good of the profession, I strongly encourage you to go online and vote for the candidate of your choice.

We’ve launched our 2023 Member Survey, asking key questions about your membership experience, what you would like to see more of, and what value looks like to you.

It is too late to stand for election for 2024, but there are still opportunities to help shape your Institute. At the RTPI, we want to ensure you get the most out of your membership which is why we are launching the Member Value Project – an extensive piece of work exploring what members want from their professional body. 

To understand the true value that members get from their membership, we’ve launched our 2023 Member Survey, asking key questions about your membership experience, what you would like to see more of, and what value looks like to you. Crucially, the Institute is also asking lapsed members and non-members for their views. Our research indicates that 25% of practicing planners in the UK are not members. The survey will also help us understand what non-members are looking for in a professional body and how the RTPI can encourage them to join. Members should have already received an email for their survey, while non-members can find the link on our website.

I understand the feeling of being on the outside looking in. But whether you’re a member or not,  get involved, there are many volunteering opportunities at national and regional levels. Only then can you create an Institute that you want to be a part of, and the networking is great too!

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