The RTPI’s Politicians in Planning Network (PIPA) held an RTPI Centenary Year Conference entitled, ‘Planning and the Public Interest’ at the University of Leicester on Saturday 18 October. It was opened by Leicester City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby and was sponsored by the Planning Advisory Service.
It was a well attended event with some 90 councillors listening to a range of speakers. In the morning the RTPI’s Chief Executive, Trudi Elliott spoke about the importance of strategic planning and referred to the RTPI paper: Strategic Planning: Beyond Cooperation. Aidan Wilkie, the Department of Communities and Local Government’s Deputy Director of Decentralisation and Neighbourhood Planning, commended the neighbourhood planning process. He highlighted how quickly the coverage of the plans had grown across England and the widespread community support they had received.
Councillor Bob Price from Oxford City Council spoke on meeting housing needs on behalf of the Local Government Association and from his experience as a Councillor in Oxford. David Rudlin, from URBED (Urbanism Environment Design), closed the morning session by talking about his imaginary garden city Uxcester that won the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize.
In the afternoon Keith Holland from the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) explained to Councillors how to avoid planning by appeal. David Tittle, the Chief Executive of MADE (Materials and Design Exchange) and Chair of the Design Network emphasised the importance of design and how, despite the severity of the housing crisis, design should not be forgotten given its powerful impact on occupiers and users.
Deloitte’s Rebecca Burnhams told Councillors that heritage buildings can add value to developments rather than just being a costly burden. Finally, David Elworthy from the Planning Officers Society reminded Councillors that they are implementing the planning vision Councillors have created in Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans. They shouldn’t be criticised unfairly for trying to negotiate competing positions and that Councillors should be more involved in the planning process, including pre-application stage.
The two break out sessions after the morning and afternoon presentations provided Councillors the opportunity to share their own experiences and probe the speakers further about the issues they had presented.
Themes from the Conference
A large variety of topics were covered over the course of the day including; neighbourhood planning, Local Plans, brownfield development, building on the greenbelt, the use of lottery funds for heritage conservation and development and the government’s technical consultation on planning.
Informal feedback from Councillors found the conference not only enjoyable but informative. Importantly, it was an opportunity to exchange stories from their own patch and learn from best practice.
PIPA aims to influence planning policies and to press decision-makers to address current planning-related issues effectively. Members of PIPA play an important part in developing policy, knowledge and good practice. For more information visit the PIPA website.