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Lindsey Richards: Expect the unexpected

Lindsey Richards FRTPI is RTPI President 2024

There were some unexpected events over the past week, some of which took many of us and me by surprise. I’m talking rain, more rain, New Towns, no blisters…..oh and the calling of a general election!

I was expecting rain but not to that extent. I was expecting UKREiiF to deliver on making connections between people, places and business but I wasn’t expecting it to that extent and I was expecting some political positioning, maybe some announcements but I wasn’t expecting it to that extent. So the past few days have over delivered in more ways than one, but no blisters which was a blessing - I’m learning.

For those attending UKREiiF It may have rained with a weather warning in place, but it certainly didn’t dampen spirits. With over 12,000 delegates in attendance, it was busy, a huge programme making it difficult to make choices and I’m sure raising FOMO for some. Attendance at UKREiiF has grown substantially over the past 3 years from 3500 at the inaugural gathering to what was a vibrant community of over 12000 last week. There was an extensive programme covering property, policy, devolution, construction, innovation, technology and business that drives sustainability and regeneration, but it was also the ad hoc opportunities that arise that build on existing networks and connections, be they on trains to and from the event or simply in some beautiful lane around the Armouries and the docks.

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Lindsey speaks on a panel at UKREiiF

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Lindsey meets delegates including Lee Rowley MP (North East Derbyshire)

With such an extensive programme came the reality for me of sitting on panels and chairing sessions slightly out of my comfort zone and in subjects I’m not quite an expert in. But it’s these occasions, and all our contributions, that generates diverse thinking and broadens the discussion and that is exactly what we need to continue to do in the built environment sector. We know we have more to do to make that happen. 

And there is more to do in growing our profession and tackling the challenges facing Local Planning Authorities in attracting and retaining planners. At one of the sessions at UKREiiF a question was asked of what was a pretty large audience about top priorities in relation to planning.

An overwhelming 93% agreed that adequate resourcing of Local planning Authorities was their top ask. There is a pretty clear message in that.

So I was thrilled that the RTPI launched a new fund last week in partnership with the British Chambers of Commerce and Aviva which will go some way to addressing shortages and building on existing planning expertise in local government planning departments in the UK. The Planning Skills Fund is a 5 year programme aimed at increasing skills and capacity and requires participants to work within Local planning Authorities for at least 2 years. We are looking for more private sector partners who are willing to step forward and support the profession.

As for the next 6 weeks I think I will be busy making the case for properly resourcing our Local Planning Authorities. Our Planifesto 2024 outlines key priorities for political parties, and urging them to support planners and unleash the economic, social, and environmental potential of planning in the UK.

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