Gillian is Manager of the Spatial Planning – Research & Development team within the Development Plan Group at Glasgow City Council. Gillian is the current Chair of the Partnership and Accreditation Panel, a member of the RTPI Scotland Executive committee and a member of the RTPI Volunteer Advisory Group.
When I was younger, I loved creating mixtapes. They captured the mood you were in and provided a snapshot of a particular moment in time. For me, maps and plans have also done the same thing. I could pick up my dad’s old school atlas from the 1950’s and travel back in time through the long gone boundaries and countries that have ceased to exist or changed their name. That love of maps and plans led me to a career in planning. Over the years I’ve come across a lot of negativity towards Planning. If I were to make a mixtape now would it include titles like:
- The suburbs by Arcade Fire
- My city of ruins by Bruce Springsteen
- Summer in the city by The Lovin’ Spoonful
- We built this city by Starship
But are we all actually listening to ‘The Planner’s dream gone wrong’ by The Jam.
It’s easy to get into a spiral of negativity about Planning and certainly back in 2015 that was where I was heading. Years of cuts, reduction in resources and a feeling that the wider world didn’t understand what Planning did, meant that I wasn’t feeling very good about my profession.
What changed? Idly scanning the back pages of The Planner - you know the bit where the RTPI have two pages to tell you everything you need to know – I spotted a call for volunteers for the Partnership and Accreditation Panel. Did I want to engage with the accredited planning schools? Was I interested in how the Planners of the future were being trained?
My first thought was the very selfish one of “this could provide me some validation that I know what I’m doing as a Planner”, my second thought was “I’m not an academic so I have no chance of getting onto this”. My final thought was “I’ve nothing too loose and this would be really cool to do”. So, I took a chance and just about fell off my seat when the email came in asking me if I’d like to join the Partnership Board for Queens University Belfast.
Eight years on, I’m now on my second board with the Technical University of Dublin and I start this year as the Chair of the Partnership and Accreditation Panel. I’ve gained so much more than I’ve ever put in:
- Enthusiasm from young people starting out.
- Understanding of how they are being trained and the skill sets they are developing.
- Better understanding of the opportunities to collaborate with academics.
- Peer to peer review of the planning courses – it’s important to have practitioners in the mix.
- Understanding of the end destination for newly qualified planners.
- Reminders of the reasons why people come into the planning profession in the first place.
- Shining a light on the stories that people tell about place.
I learnt my Planning skills at Heriot-Watt University in the mid 80’s. As an undergraduate I built on my love of geography and maps, exploring places and understanding their social history, and my love of the quirky views and unexpected places you can find wondering around a town through the open spaces and abandoned places.
It’s refreshing to see that still ongoing within our accredited planning schools now and the young planners that I chat to are an inspiration. They understand the connection between Place and Climate. They recognise that geospatial data is a really important tool, and they know that the profession they are entering is at the heart of the sustainability debates. They are inspiring and volunteering with the Partnership boards has relit the spark and reminded me why I love being a Planner. And what am I adding to my mixtape - Glasgow (No place like Home) from the film Wild Rose.
Find out more about volunteering at the RTPI here.