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Conference reaffirms young planners are critical to the future of places and the profession

12 October 2015

Over 200 young planning professionals gathered in Southampton for the annual two day RTPI Young Planners’ Conference. The delegates heard from a range of experts around the theme ‘Planning for Successful Places’.

Given the significant changes to Southampton over the past decade and the ongoing large scale investment in the port side city, Charlie Collins from Savills who made the opening remarks said “Southampton is the perfect place to be talking about the politics of planning places”.

The Conference covered a wide ranges of issues  that need to be considered when planning for successful places, including the politics of the local area, the environment, urban design, ensuring economic growth and specifically on planning for South Coast communities. 

Plenary Session 1: Politics of Planning Places

Trudi Elliott Headshot

The RTPI’s Chief Executive Trudi Elliott (pictured, right) was the first presenter of the conference, fresh from attending Labour and Conservative party conferences over the past two weeks. She provided the current political and legislative context planners are currently working in, given the UK election in 2015 and the upcoming elections across the nations over the next two years. She stressed the significant amount of change in the planning system over the past 5 years and the large number of changes underway or proposed. She concluded by asking, rhetorically, what do we need? “More planners”, her answer. Andrew Whitaker, Planning Director at the Home Builders Federation also discussed the political context, nothing that you have to explain to politicians ‘if you have planning permission today, you don’t have houses built tomorrow’. While Professor Gavin Park, University of Reading discussed the politics of neighbourhood planning saying that neighbourhood plans and localism are a microcosm of planning generally.

 

Plenary Session 2: Place making under pressure: The Environmental Balance

Alethea Evans, Principal Planner at Essex County Council opened by reminding delegates not to forget that planning for minerals and waste is fundamental to planning generally, it is critical for example to supporting housing development – we need minerals to build houses and a plan for the waste created by households. Delegates heard about the importance of identifying site ecological constraints early to avoid delays, minimise compromises to design and maximise biodiversity opportunities from Simon Boswell, Senior Ecologist at Ecological Survey and Assessment Limited. While Tim Stanley, Planning Director at South Downs National Park told delegates that national parks should not be viewed as a barrier to development but must strongly consider its impact on the landscape.

 

Plenary Session 3: Planning for South Coast Communities

Donna Moles, Senior Planning Officer at Arun District Council stepped delegates through creating a neighbourhood plan, jokingly noting that due to the age of the participants some don’t make it to see the adoption of their plan. Bryan Jezeph reminded the young planners that few developers offer housing that caters adequately for the elderly, 90% live in mainstream housing. While Catriona Riddell focussed on the changing methods of strategic planning following the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies.

 

Plenary Session 4: Designing Successful Places

Mario Wolf from the Department of Communities and Local Government used local and international case studies to demonstrate how custom and self build homes can contribute to successful places. Craig McLaren drew on the entries into Scotland’s Great Places to highlight the characteristics of successful places in Scotland and what can be applied to replicate this success. Dr Samer Bagaeen used international examples, including projects in Europe, to show how to design successful places. 

 

Plenary Session 5: Planning for Growth

Viral Desai Headshot

Viral Desai (pictured, right) Planning Consultant from AMEC Foster Wheeler, Young Planners Coordinator at the Commonwealth Association of Planners and the RTPI's Young Planner of the Year, opened the final plenary session urging young planners not to be blinded by the current economic growth mantra and remember to plan for strong social and environmental outcomes. Visiting Professor at UCL Bartlett School of Planning, Dr Janice Morphet commented on the UK Government’s Productivity Plan and contrasted infrastructure planning in the UK with Europe showing its relative inadequacy. Andrew McMunnigal, Senior Policy and Project Officer at the Greater London Authority contrasted London’s economic growth with the rest of the UK looking at its strengths but also its threats and constraints.

 

Workshops

On Friday afternoon delegates chose from a range of workshops on high streets, engaging local communities, the green belt, neighbourhood planning, infrastructure and the RTPI’s Assessment of Professional Competence.

 

Study Tours

On Saturday afternoon study tours, including a boat tour and tours examining regeneration, heritage and the quay exposed delegates to the real world challenges facing planners in and around Southampton.

 

 The 2015 Young Planners’ Conference was organised by the South Coast Young Planners Network. It will be held in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 14 and 15 October, 2016.

 

The Conference was kindly sponsored by:

YPC Webblock

 


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