Last week the RTPI held its annual Awards for Planning Excellence. Stephen Harness, member of the International Committee, hosted a visit from the international award nominees who were able to come to London for the ceremony.
As this was the year we introduced a special inaugural International Award and representatives were travelling from across the world, including Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines and the USA, it was decided that as well as attending the ceremony, a brief walking tour and dinner would be arranged to welcome them. After arriving at the RTPI HQ and meeting the 12 representatives, I took them on a walking tour of some of the sites of the City of London on the way to the ceremony venue near the Barbican.
A walking tour
We began at the monument to the great fire of London of 1666 where we I set the context for the walk and explained some of the history of City planning post disaster and the impact of World War II bombing. We then visited the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street and whilst waiting for the lifts discussed the role planning took in the design for the building and provision of the public space as well as its more controversial history. Our overseas guests all seemed to enjoy their visit and chose to stay longer as we were very lucky to have clear skies that day. In fact the light was so bright, it was difficult to get a place to take our group photo where our faces weren’t in the dark in contrast to the views.
After descending back to ground level, we walked through some of the historic buildings of the City explaining their context, such as Leadenhall market and the Royal Exchange and we pointed out some of the iconic buildings of the area, laughing at some of the nicknames they had been given. Everyone was interested to see that planning had brought about not only conservation, but re-use of many of these buildings. We discussed the historic street names, the statues and role of buildings such as the Bank of England, Guildhall and Mansion House. The last stop on our tour was the Barbican Centre and we discussed its controversial brutalist design, raised streets and lack of legibility, whilst remembering that it introduced much needed housing into this area of the City as well as conference halls, performance, exhibition and public open spaces.
On the night
After sitting with the delegates during the ceremony and sharing their joy at being shortlisted and (for some) winning, we all met afterwards for dinner. We were joined by the RTPI President, Phil Williams, Immediate Past President, Janet Askew, Chair of the International Committee, Peter Geraghty and our International Officer, Marion. Other guests included, representatives of the UK Government, from the Department for International Development (DFID), as well as the Chief Planners in England and Scotland. We all discussed the impact of the awards and I was pleased to hear lots of praise for the RTPI’s inaugural International Planning Award, as well as lots of laughter and exchange of ideas and new friendships forged.
How The Planner magazine covered the award
The magazine wrote: Kenya’s Tana River Delta land use plan and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) has won the RTPI’s inaugural International Award for Planning Excellence. The groundbreaking scheme, Kenya’s first integrated spatial plan and SEA - is a framework for protecting one of Africa’s most important wetlands.
It aims to support livelihoods, resolve land conflicts and create economic opportunities in ecotourism, food processing and resource development. The scheme has been adopted at national and county levels and its principles are being rolled out elsewhere in the country.
Nature Kenya executive director Paul Matiku told The Planner that building trust among communities was crucial to the scheme's success as the planning process had to contend with ethnic clashes in the delta, leading to the deaths of 120 people, as well as terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab. The delta had also been beset by severe droughts and fierce legal battles between developers and local people over land rights.
“Through this process local people discovered they had rights,” he added.
The organisations behind the scheme include the Governments of Tana County and Lamu County, the Government of Kenya, Deltas Inter-ministerial Technical Committee Tana Planning Advisory Committee Nature Kenya, RSPB, Planning Green Futures, Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment, UK Aid, Wetlands Alliance, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Read more about the RTPI's international work.