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Young planners at heart of place shaping, conference hears

17 October 2016

 Roisin Willmott Addressing YPC 16_v2Young planners have the skills and training to be at the heart of shaping cities, delegates at this year's RTPI Young Planners Conference heard. The conference considered the range of pressures likely to confront them in their professional roles. From the impact of Brexit and economic challenges to harnessing emerging technology and tackling health problems.

Kim Boal, Chair of RTPI Northern Ireland Young Planners said:

"I really enjoyed drawing on the speakers’ expertise on a range of issues and what we can do to help manage them. Equally, it was useful to speak with friends and peers about how they're dealing with similar challenges but in different contexts. There’s been plenty for us to take back to our desks to improve the way we deliver for our respective communities".

Belfast's substantial economic, political and social transformation offered delegates real world examples of the power of planning to transform places through regeneration and plan-led approaches to development. Angus Kerr, Director of Northern Ireland’s Planning Policy Division discussed last year’s transfer of planning powers to local councils from national government. He said it was ‘the right thing’ as councils know the most appropriate types of development for their area. He encouraged young planners to try new things at a local level which could be scaled up.

YPC Delegates 2016

Fiona McCandless, Northern Ireland’s Chief Planner, who opened the conference, said planning is about effectively managing change and maximising the opportunities available. Similarly, RTPI Vice President Stephen Wilkinson said "great planning is about taking long term strategic decisions which determine different places" but caveated that to deliver good planning it takes time and resource.

The increasing importance of technology and use of data in informing better planning was a key theme. Stephen Hilton, Bristol Council’s Director of Futures told delegates, smart cities were not an end in themselves, saying ‘smart, not as a destination but as an enabler of good decision making and sustainability’. Dr Mary Keeling, IBM’s Economic Analysis Strategy Director agreed and added "a lot of planning just thinks of the to think how we can embed tech so cities can run as best as possible". She asked young planners to think about what currently underutilised 'unstructured data' could be used in the planning system, saying cognitive technology is the 'game changer'.

YPC 16 President 's Special Award _v2

During the conference, Janet Askew, RTPI Immediate Past President, presented the President’s Special Award for Planning Achievement 2015 to the RTPI Young Planners. 

Janet said, “I acknowledge that there are considerable challenges for you all at present, not least of all climate change, inequality and social injustice, and ethics. But I am confident that with your commitment to town planning, you will face up to this and continue to promote our profession.”

Viral Desai, Young Planner of the Year 2015, Emma Lancaster, Young Planner of the Year 2016; and Kim Boals, Chair of the Northern Ireland Young Planners received the award on behalf of the RTPI Young Planners.

YPC 16 Dinner

The conference, attended by 230 people, was sponsored by Soni and the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure. Next year's conference will be held in Manchester and hosted by RTPI North West Young Planners.

Twitter: #RTPIYPConf16 trended at #1

Instagram: Plenty of photos 'grammed for this year's competition 

View: Photos from the conference

More information: RTPI Northern Ireland Young Planners

Be the first to know: 2017 Young Planners’ Conference

Join: RTPI Young Planners

Headline sponsors:


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Dinner sponsor:

Essex Chambers


Welcome drink sponsors:

David Lock


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Exhibitor and Photo Competition Sponsor:

Tascomi V4



David Lock


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Workshop and study tour sponsor:

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Workshop sponsors:

No 5 Logo 2016 BLACK 2


St John 's Chambers