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Politicians In Planning Conference 2016

25 November 2016

Politicians in Planning  – The PIPA Annual Conference 2016


PIPA Conference 2016

On Saturday 19th November a group of 50 delegates attended the annual Politicians in Planning conference in Manchester. A wide range of speakers and councillors for the very first time, came from across all corners of the UK to hear about the challenges of delivering housing, infrastructure and enhancing the environment. They took back with them the tools to help them make the most of their planning decision making powers.

Although planning powers are devolved in the UK, the challenges faced by decision makers in each of the countries are shared by locally elected politicians. This was illustrated in a session on planning policy reform and the impact it has on decision making for politicians in planning.  Adam Dodgshon, Planning Advisory Service (PAS) in England, Irene Beautyman, the Improvement Service (IS) in Scotland and Councillor Trevor Stott, Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), explored the whether and how simplification of the planning system can help decision-making. A lively discussion chaired by Councillor Keith House, Local Government Association (LGA), led to a Q&A for councillors new to planning.

How to best meet housing and land demand was a running theme. Trudi Elliott, RTPI Chief Executive and chair of the conference, ran through the RTPI’s 16 ways to address the housing crisis. Ross Martin, CEO at the Scottish Council on Development and Industry, rang in a different perspective in the session on Meeting the Needs of a Growing Population. He encouraged politicians to inform themselves early in the process and to take part in creating quality framework within which great places can be made and maintained.

In his keynote address, Councillor Neil Clarke MBE, chair of the District Council, urged the conference to act locally and think globally. He said that district councils are in a good position to unlock stalled sites and that we need to encourage small and medium builders back to the market. Enabling more self-build homes would encourage unique buildings not bland estates, he added.

The topic design was picked up later in one of the six afternoon focus sessions by Nicola Mathers, Design Council, and Carole-Anne Davies, CEO of the Design Commission Wales who talked about the importance of inclusive design. Stressing that creating inclusive environments in light of, for example ageing societies, through positive planning and great design is more cost effective in the long run. Getting communities effectively engaged in the process was covered by Harvey Pritchard, Planning Aid England, and Ian MacKay from Leeds City Council, in a workshop on local and neighbourhood planning with examples from Leeds.

Decision makers can also make value-adding changes for everyone when it comes to infrastructure. Professor Alister Scott, Northumbria University, and Paul Gibbs, David Jarvis Associates, ran an interactive workshop known as a RUFolpoly tookit for delivering infrastructure while Eamonn Boylan, Chief Executive of Stockport Council, took us on a journey of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority experience of working across boundaries, with transport being an important factor. Close collaboration with local government is important when delivering large-scale infrastructure in rural areas, a point highlighted by Councillor Mark Winnington and the Stafford Local Plan.Phil Mayall, Director of Muse Developments, demonstrated how to use brownfield land effectively, using Salford as an example of sustainable mixed-use community.

The RTPI award-winning Living Places Guide, presented by James Hennessy, Associate Director at The Paul Hogarth Company, and Angus Kerr, Director of Planning Policy, Department for Infrastructure at the Northern Ireland Assembly captured the essence of the day in An Urban Stewardship and Design Guide for Northern Ireland. The guide clearly sets out the principles of good-place making and emphasises that the processes behind hit means we are collectively responsible, including coalface decision-makers such as councillors, to make places great.

Check out #RTPIpipa to see what twitter was saying about the event. For more information about the PIPA network and how to join (open to non-RTPI members) go to