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Ian Anderson and Ryan Walker: Reflections on winning Young Planner of the Year

Ian Anderson and Ryan Walker from Iceni Projects both won the national award for the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence Young Planner of the Year. Ian (pictured) won over 20 years ago in 2001, and Ryan in 2021 after winning the Northern Ireland award in 2020. Ryan has had a long affiliation with the RTPI, having been an active member of the RTPI Northern Ireland Executive Committee, General Assembly and Vice-Chair of the Young Planners Network.

“At that time, the RTPI Award for Young Planner of the Year was the only award that really recognised the individual.”  Ian began. “Most of the other planning awards were about projects and teams, but this was probably the only time your peers and wider industry had a chance to say this person does that quite well.”

A platform for change

Ryan explained: “I really wasn’t expecting to win at the virtual award ceremony held during Covid. But winning the RTPI Young Planner of the Year has given me an incredible platform to adopt a strong advocacy style role. It has enabled me to speak, instigate change and work on campaigns to attract and inspire more young people into the profession as well as encouraging  young people to be more engaged in the wider planning process.”  

Ryan also worked closely with the regional runners up to help raise their profiles as young planners collectively. This approached fostered more awareness about what young planners do across the whole of the UK.

Opening a world of opportunities

Photo shows Ryan 

During his time as Young Planner of the Year, Ryan had many opportunities open up to him. This ranged from giving careers talks at schools, to participating at planning related committees, speaking at the American Planning Conference and giving evidence to the House of Lords here in the UK. And for Ryan, not too long after winning his award, he had a conversation with Ian which led to him securing his current role at Iceni Projects.

My win really instilled a sense of pride in my family (Ryan)

20 years ago, Ian’s win gave him more kudos and value with clients, architects, and developers from outside of the planning profession. “I got inundated with requests to join groups and committees that I can trace it back to winning the award.” This exposure led to Ian getting developer experience and changed the trajectory of his career. “Winning had a big impact on my decisions and the opportunities that I had in my career. It ultimately set me on the road that led me to setting up Iceni Projects.

During the interview Ryan and Ian realised that they had both come from working class backgrounds and winning the RTPI Young Planner of the Year was an opportunity to celebrate inclusion within the industry as well. It also marked an important turning point in signifying that they were on the right career path. 

Reasons to make a Young Planner of the Year nomination

  • It’s an award that’s really open for all

Ian said: “You don’t need to come from a certain background or career path to be a credible candidate.  Winning really brought me more into fold of the wider planning community.”

  • Don’t be afraid, take a leap and nominate yourself

Ryan’s biggest tip is: “Don’t be embarrassed about putting yourself forward for this award. Just be genuine. If you’re announced as the winner, you’ll have a year to campaign and promote the themes mentioned in your entry so make sure it’s something you’re passionate about.”

  • Make sure you nominate the doers and the thinkers

Put forward young planners who don’t necessarily shout about their achievements or what they do. The ones who exemplify a real passion for the profession and go beyond client expectations. Young planners who actively seek to address the wider impacts of planning and want to make a real difference. They may not even recognise it in themselves.


The RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence Young Planner of the Year category is open for nominations until 21 March 2023. 

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