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Joel Cohen: Making the case for planning this election

RTPI’s Senior Public Affairs Officer, Joel Cohen, reflects on the RTPI’s political advocacy so far.

Planning is of course itself a highly political activity. It’s no surprise then that we’ve also seen a growing politicisation of planning issues in more contested times and in the run-up to this election. However, planning is also a collaborative and conciliatory activity, focused on bringing parties together and delivering outcomes for a common good.

This puts the RTPI in a strong position to act as the collective voice of planners and engage robustly with the political parties, candidates and voters because our positions and policy asks have found a balance – through the dedicated work of our volunteers and policy teams - between the public and private sector and a wide range of political views included in the profession.

We took a running start at the general election campaign in 2023 with the publication of our ‘Planifesto’. Our campaign to change the conversation that politicians and the public have about planning has picked up steam since then.

Our Planifesto has five key asks 


The five headline ambitions we’d like the next Government to adopt are a yardstick that planners can use to judge the party manifestos when they appear over the coming weeks. These high-level principles have been well received behind the scenes by the main parties and most of the advisers we’ve spoken to.

This support has led to many constructive conversations about planning on our own version of the campaign trail. We’ve taken our bright green ‘Planifesto’ placards across the country to the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party conferences and other places where politicians engage with the sector, like the recent UK Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREIIF) conference. Politicians of all stripes have lined up to support a well-resourced planning system, planning for net zero and stronger local plans which have been especially popular.

Alongside this broad engagement, our Presidential team and Chief Executive have been busy using panel and roundtable events we’ve hosted and other speaking appearances to have deeper conversations about the many emerging ideas suggested in our Planifesto that we’d encourage the next Government to consider in office.

This has led to useful engagements with influential think tanks and journalists and big hitters in the sector who’ve cohered around our asks. Think tanks like IPPR, Localis and Create Streets have featured our asks and our evidence in their writings on housing, planning and environmental issues. We’ve promoted the power of planning in the pages of The Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg and of course the local government and trade press.

Only time – and the manifestos – will show the fruits of our efforts. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the RTPI's latest campaigning activity in our new General Election hub where we’ll be keeping a close eye on this election’s runners and helping you, the community of planners, to understand the potential implications of political change for your work, plans and projects.

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David Simmonds MP (Conservative)

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Baroness Thornhill, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Housing)

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RTPI Immediate Past President Sue Bridge, and Rachel Maclean MP, Minister of State (Housing and Planning)

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Matthew Pennycook MP, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning

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