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Victoria Hills: The value of volunteering

Volunteering, UKREiiF 2023, Freedom of the City, Pride, and more.....

Today marks the start of Volunteers’ Week – an opportunity to recognise the invaluable contribution volunteers make to our communities. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the thousands of RTPI members who volunteer their time, skills and knowledge to the Institute each year. Thanks to your support, we can strengthen our profession's collective voice and promote the profession to a new generation. 

We have a wide range of volunteers across the regions and nations delivering events, CPD opportunities, judging awards, championing EDI and much more. We also have volunteers chairing and supporting our networks, APC assessors and mentors, Planning Aid England volunteers helping people in their communities, as well as many other roles including around our corporate governance. All play a vital role in helping to deliver the highest professional and ethical standards, creating trust for employers, clients, elected officials and the wider public.

Volunteers also play a pivotal role in helping influence the profession by taking part in important discussions and debate. That’s why we’ve chosen Volunteers’ Week to open nominations for the RTPI elections. It a great opportunity to get involved with the Institute and to have your say, so keep an eye out for an email from Mi-Voice on 5 June with details on roles you can apply for.

UKREiiF 2023

In May I attended UKREiiF 2023, a real estate investment and infrastructure forum. Former Prime Minister John Major famously used to campaign from a soap box near Brixton market to get his message across. Not wanting to be outdone, I took a box full of business cards with my team up to UKREiiF with a QR code directing some of the influential people I spoke to, including delegates representing the housing and built environment sectors, to our interim analysis on the state of the planning profession. It proved a simple but effective way of getting the message out alongside our more traditional communications channels.

I also attended a session looking at whether the planning system needs radical reform alongside our President, Sue Bridge. Additionally, I spoke at a session on modular offsite construction, and joined the President in hosting a members-only lunchtime reception. The RTPI’s delegation took every opportunity to highlight the profile of planning and the challenges the profession faces, to ensure the voice of our members was heard at the different sessions we attended.

The RTPI members only lunchtime reception 

Interim State of the Profession 2023

Our interim state of the profession analysis showed that a quarter of public sectors planners left the profession between 2013 and 2020. Budget reductions have led to unmanageable workloads and overstretched workers, and an RTPI survey revealed that 68% of respondents saw competitive salaries as a key difficulty for local authorities. It’s a crisis that’s also been compounded by the widespread abuse and mistreatment of planners at the local level, in part driven by a political narrative on the left and the right seeing planning as a barrier and not the enabler that it is.

Despite the challenges, the analysis also revealed an increasingly diverse profession driven by rising ambitions for planning delivery. For example, 8% of RTPI members under 40 are now from Asian, Black and minority ethnic communities, which is higher than the overall average of 5%. It also revealed that 50% of RTPI members under 40 are women. It is vital to ensure that we retain this momentum as the profession needs to be able to benefit from the widest possible range of talent and expertise.

Freedom of the City 

On Friday 23 May I received the Freedom of the City of London. It is such a privilege to be part of a tradition that dates back to 1237. It is a unique part of London’s history, and was originally an essential requirement for all who wished to carry on business in the Square Mile. It's an honour to join the long list of illustrious recipients, which have included international leaders, entrepreneurs and academics, as well as household names including Sir Michael Caine and Dame Judi Dench. 


June marks the start of Pride Month, and a fantastic opportunity to discuss a collaboration between Arup and the University of Westminster, titled "Queering Public Space". Their report explores the relationship between queer communities and public spaces, a subject that I believe every planner should be aware of.

As planners, we need to be aware that LGBTQ+ individuals and other marginalised groups often feel vulnerable in public space, and need to consider how queering public spaces can foster inclusivity, making them more hospitable for all community members. I encourage all planners to head to Queering Public Space to read the full report.


It’s a busy time for the policy teams across the nations responding to consultations, and in England the team responded to ‘Planning for new energy infrastructure: revisions to National Policy Statements’ on 25 May. Also in England, by 7 June the RTPI will have submitted its response to the current consultation on planning for short term lets, and by 9 June will have also submitted responses on the infrastructure levy, networks national policy statements and environmental outcomes reports. July will bring the Institute’s response to the consultation on ‘developing local partnerships for onshore wind in England’. Members are welcome to send their views on the onshore wind consultation to [email protected], by 9 June.

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