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RTPI hosts visit by the American President

27 November 2012

The RTPI has helped to organise a UK visit by America's first 'other African-American President' Mitchell Silver, President of the American Planning Association (APA) and Chief Planning and Economic Development Officer for Raleigh, North Carolina.

A packed programme of activity saw Silver deliver inspirational lectures to Land Economy students in Cambridge and to the 150 delegates at the RTPI Annual Lecture in London. He was a guest at the Department for Communities and Local Government's (DCLG) 'policy picnic' and met Shadow Planning Minister Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP to discuss planning issues. Silver also briefed former minister David Lammy MP and found the time to see RTPI Chief Executive Trudi Elliott give evidence to the MPs in the committee stage of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. He spoke at a meeting of RTPI West Midland's region, attended our Regions and Nations panel and attended the dinner of former RTPI Presidents.

Silver gives RTPI Annual Lecture

Mitchell Silver enthralled a packed audience at the RTPI Nathaniel Lichfield Annual Lecture. Drawing on a wealth of fascinating, and at times surprising, evidence from the U.S., Mitchell showed that good strategic planning can add significant value to investment, and argued that communities need planners to "fall in love with planning again".

The lecture was once again generously supported by Dalia Lichfield and kindly hosted by University College London.

mitchell silverModern and historic architecture

Accompanied by Chief Executive of the APA, Paul Farmer, Silver was obviously struck by the juxtaposition of modern and historic architecture in London and Cambridge, with a short walk along the Thames taking in Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the Greater London Assembly, the Shard, and Borough Market to emphasise the at times contrasting and complementary architectural styles in the Capital.


Silver visited Parliament twice during his visit. The first visit as kindly organised by the Rt Hon David Lammy MP - who studied for a time in America - who took the opportunity to compare notes on the differences in the UK and US planning system. Lammy, who has raised the issue of the proliferation of betting shops in Tottenham's High Streets a priority, was interested to find out the way gambling was treated in the USA.  

The second visit to Parliament was focused on seeing how the Institute influences policy, sitting in on Trudi Elliott's evidence to the Committee of MPs scrutinising the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. Silver and Farmer met Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, the shadow planning minister. This was followed by a 'policy picnic' with officers from the Department of Communities and Local Government offered an opportunity to discuss a key theme of Mitchell's, culture change in the profession.


The visit to Cambridge University, preceded by a tour of the redevelopment of Kings Cross, was organised by Kelvin MacDonald, senior visiting fellow at the Department of Land Economy. Silver's lecture warned students of the danger that planners were "specialising themselves out of existence", and Farmer provided insights from his time as a planner in Pittsburgh where the city had to manage the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s with the loss of over 200,000 jobs. A key element to managing such traumatic change was a behavioural approach to managing grief - far from the usual work of a planner. A visit to St Catharine's College Library was no less illuminating,  where the tour party scrutinised a book of 17th Century maps, a regional planning study of Cambridge from the 1930s, and an early plan dating back from the turn of the century produced by a local amenity society in the town proposing areas of growth and restraint around Cambridge.