The RTPI Young Planners’ Conference was attended by 300 delegates and took place at the Albert Hall and Conference Centre, Nottingham on 2-3 November.
Hosted by the East Midlands Young Planners Committee this year, the event is one of the biggest events on the planning calendar and saw a record number of delegates this year.
The theme ‘Celebrating Planning for the Greater Good’, was explored and debated through the packed two-day programme, offered an enriching learning and networking experience for young planners. Prior to the conference, 200 delegates enjoyed a reception at Das Kino, which was sponsored by Aspbury Planning and Curtins.
Day one - Debating planning hot topics
The conference - headline sponsored by Fisher German, Planning & Design Group and Waterman - was kick-started by the Chair of the East Midlands Young Planners, Chris Jesson and RTPI President, John Acres. Mr Acres said: “Planning is alive and well and has never been so high on the agenda”. He talked about the inspirational projects and planners he had seen and met over the past year.
Chief Planner of Nottingham City Council, Paul Seddon, then encouraged the audience to be “evangelists for planning”. He chaired an esteemed panel of Roisin Willmott, RTPI Director of Wales and Northern Ireland, and Steve Quartermain, Chief Planner of England. Ms Willmott introduced the merits of the RTPI’s value of planning toolkit in Wales as a means of best practice to resolve reputational issues in planning, while Mr Quartermain encouraged delegates to “go back to work positively and be confident in the value you bring.”
The session then progressed onto two panel sessions debating how planning influences sustainability, and what a 21st century Green Belt should look like. Here it emerged that we should learn from each other more to achieve sustainable planning solutions for our future. There were strongly-held opposing views on brownfield-first approaches, reflecting the continued debate on this issue. After lunch, delegates took part in a series of interactive crash courses on subjects including urban design, strategic site disposal, viability, and the impact of the NPPF on ancient woodland. A planning law update rounded off the day.
The evening’s gala dinner was sponsored by Boyer, Bidwells. It was followed by an official after party at The Bowery in Nottingham city centre, joined by around 100 delegates.
Day two – What would you do if Prime Minister?
On the second day, delegates took CPD ‘crash courses’ on subjects including housing land supply, APC, rural planning and national parks, and planning for an ageing population. Delegates heard from a panel of aspiring female planners on what good planning means to them, including Young Planner of the Year 2018, Heather Claridge, who asked us to “repair, reactivate, reimagine” when creating healthy, high quality places. Delegates also heard from panellists on what they would do if they were Prime Minister.
The event closed with remarks by Chief Executive of the RTPI, Victoria Hills, who said “the future of the planning profession is in safe hands with our impressive, talented and passionate rising stars. I’m even more confident that a bright future lays ahead, with the best yet to come!”
After the conference closed, delegates participated in a series of study tours of sites across the East Midlands including the Ellis Meadows flood defence scheme, the contemporary waterside scheme at the Trent Basin, the site of the proposed HS2 station at Toton, and a heritage walking tour of Nottingham, as well as visiting the cultural sights of Leicester.
Chris Jesson, Chair of the East Midlands Young Planners, said: “The event has been a major success with delegate feedback being complementary. We were delighted to host the conference this year in the group’s 10th anniversary year.
“Young planners are faced with a diverse and growing number of challenges. We learned this includes resolving the thorny issue of the Green Belt and being aware of ‘exclusive inclusivity’ in public engagement. There was definitely a message of handing the ‘planning baton’ down to us younger planners. It showed we must be bold and aspirational in what we do and have belief in ourselves to plan for the greater good.”
“It was also an excellent showcase of the East Midlands – for the exciting plans we have ahead for regional growth and infrastructure, and the organisations and influential people involved in making this happen. I wish the North East Young Planners every success for 2019.”
A video of the conference can be found here.