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Janet Askew becomes RTPI President

14 January 2015

Janet Askew was today inaugurated as President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) at a ceremony in central London.

In her speech, Janet emphasised how vital it was to continue to promote the positive benefits of planning and also highlighted the contribution planning and planners can make to addressing social inequalities.

Janet Askew said:

“I am determined to ensure that we build on the success of our centenary and engage with more people to promote planning – what I call the challenge of persuasion – proving the value of planning to society. I became a planner because I had a utopian view, an emotional view that planning could improve the quality of life and give people a voice about how they lived.”

I became a planner because I had a utopian view, an emotional view that planning could improve the quality of life and give people a voice about how they lived.

She outlined three key opportunities to promote planning: through education, through community planning, and internationally.


“Working abroad what has surprised me most is the influence that British town planning and history has had. The RTPI is held in very high esteem in China for example. There may be differences in scale in different countries but we are all working on the same issues - to provide liveable places, better public transport, sustainable housing and a fair distribution of public services. There are still many international opportunities for the RTPI, not least of all to increase membership.”

A-Janet Askew _I0A3118 (1)

Through education

“I have spent a large part of my career working in the University of the West of England in Bristol, and I am often asked about planning schools when I am abroad - how do we maintain and uphold such high standards in planning education?  I see it as one of the main roles of the RTPI to ensure and guarantee the future quality of the profession – through the accreditation of planning schools, and co-operation with universities on research.

For nearly 20 years, there has been a downward trend however in undergraduate numbers - with the most marked drop in home students. In some universities, international students outnumber home students. 

Many graduates from British planning schools return to their home countries to work, wherever that might be and they are eligible to be members of the institute.  So we should explore the opportunities of working with these planners - as a starting point through universities and British consultants with international offices - to recruit more members to the RTPI, and I hope to do some of this during my year as President.”

Through community planning

Neighbourhood planning offers opportunities for more people to be involved in the planning of their own areas. And communities need the help of qualified town planners to prepare their plans. This is reassuring in one way – planners really do have skills and knowledge to offer, but we also know that local authorities are very short staffed, and if we want to create good plans, then recruitment to the profession is vital.

Thank you Cath

Janet praised outgoing President Cath Ranson:

“Cath has been a truly dedicated and committed President. She has attended over 80 engagements, travelled extensively, and visited every region and nation of the UK, as well as Australia, America and Hong Kong, celebrating the centenary. We have calculated that she has travelled over 15,000 miles during her year.”

Young planners

Janet also addressed young planners saying:

“Be radical in your ideas, like the earliest and most successful planners of 100 years ago. You are the policy makers of the future and you don’t need to follow the status quo but challenge it. The future of planning is in the hands of the young planners, and we must do all we can to make planning an attractive career option for potential students.”

Janet's background

Janet has worked in the public and private sectors in planning and latterly in academia. She currently teaches planning at the University of the West of England, (UWE) Bristol, and her research interests include planning law and the implementation of regulations.

Watch the speech on Youtube here

Read the speech in full here

See photos of the evening here