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Young planners: agents for healthier and happier places

07 November 2017

YPConf 17 Workshop

Young planners’ valuable role in shaping society’s future health and happiness was highlighted at an RTPI national conference last week.

Planning for health is critical

The politicians, academics, planners and policy experts who spoke at the 2017 Young Planners’ Conference agreed on the central role for planning to shape the determinants of health and wellbeing - not just physical health but mental health, fairness, social equity and happiness.

The leader of Trafford Council, Councillor Sean Anstee, said that planning for growth not only means jobs but also affordable housing, transport infrastructure and meeting the needs of older people.

Challenges for young planners to overcome

The difficulty in finding the right balance amid all the issues planners have to consider when making decisions was discussed. Other challenges raised throughout the conference include approaches to the green belt and to the need for the private and public sectors work better together.

James Shuttleworth from Manchester City Council said that planning has an important role in shaping places to achieve better health outcomes, but planning decisions are always “balances between numerous aims”.

Similarly, a researcher from think tank IPPR North, Sarah Longlands, told delegates that the mission of making people's lives better often gets lost in the bureaucracy of the planning system. “The intention is often there to make cities better for people, but is not always explicit in the plan process,” she said.

YPConf 17 Happy Healthy Manchester Presentation

The way forward: meaningful engagement

A leading planning academic, Professor Simin Davoudi FRTPI from Newcastle University, said planning needs to be more inclusive and must better represent the views of the “silent majority”. Planning law expert, Jan Bessell FRTPI, also told delegates to meaningfully engage with all members of the community, saying engagement is “not just show and tell”.

The Place Standard, a new public consultation tool developed by a number of Scottish organisations, was singled out by speakers as a good way to overcome current flaws in engagement.

Agents for change

Speakers were optimistic about young planners’ capacity for delivering healthier places. Architect and master planner Mick Timpson told the young planners they are “agents of change". Stephen Wilkinson, President of the RTPI, echoed this optimism: "Young planners are a considerable driver for change... It’s up to you to take the profession forward, to champion the power of planning.”

“Healthy, Happy Places and People: Planning for Wellbeing” was the theme of this year’s RTPI Young Planners’ Conference held from 3-4 November in Manchester. Nearly 300 people attended the two-day conference.


Catch up: See how the event unfolded on Twitter using #YPConf2017

Read: Coverage in The Planner

View: Images of the conference

More information: RTPI North West Young Planners