As we look ahead, I thought it would be helpful to introduce myself as North West Chair for 2024.
After studying at the University of Liverpool, my career began in local government in 2007, with West Lancashire and St Helens Councils before I moved to the private sector with property developer and investor, The Emerson Group (Jones Homes / Orbit Developments) in 2014. I later became a planning consultant in 2017 with Indigo, WSP and Nexus, and in 2023 I returned ‘client side’, joining strategic land promoter, Richborough. I like to think this background provides me with a unique understanding and appreciation of the daily challenges our members face, and I will be seeking to harness this in my role as Chair.
Despite joining the RTPI in 2006, I didn’t become involved with the RTPI North West until 2021. I still feel guilty about this, but upon reflection, I guess it’s better late than never to get involved! Seriously, there’s a lot of hard work put in behind the scenes to support our members and promote the profession, all of which is done by our fantastic volunteers under the close supervision of Bev Watson.
Anyway, it’s time to talk about 2024 and what lies ahead. As an Institute, the RTPI is on with some important initiatives at the national level which we are rallying behind.
Ahead of the General Election, we are calling on all political parties to support planners and to realise the potential of planning as part of our ‘Planifesto 2024’. We are urging them to commit to action including: funding high-quality planning services; explaining where their manifesto promises will be delivered; empowering communities through local plans; committing to net zero; and working with local leaders to avoid piecemeal development. The intention is to ensure every community has access to the homes, infrastructure and support they need to prosper.
We have also launched the ‘It Takes Planners’ campaign, to rally support for planners at a time when local planning issues have become manipulated by naysayers spreading misinformation and hatred online and on social media. Worryingly, our members are increasingly becoming targets of abuse through these channels. Our campaign aims to tackle this by raising the awareness of the pivotal role planners play. Only by showing our support for planners and tackling misinformation head-on, can we ensure that our planning system continues to create liveable, healthy communities.
As a region, we’re aiming to build on our previous success. Our top priorities for 2024 include:
- Working closely with our LPA Champions, we will continue exploring ways in which we can support our members in the public sector, particularly those facing adversity from internal and external pressures, including issues with funding, resources and recruitment;
- With a shortage of planners at all levels in the region, will be seeking to retain and attract talent, including those from under-represented groups and backgrounds. We will also be looking at how we can help those re-training from other professions or up-skilling from other technical and supporting roles within planning, as well as guiding our Licentiate, Associate and Experienced Practitioner members through the APC process.
- Collaborating more closely as a network of planners and with our sister built and natural environment professionals across our vast region (from Manchester to the Isle of Man, to Chester and Carlisle), to share best practice and experience, forge new connections and ultimately deliver mutually beneficial outcomes for our members and communities.
And of course, all of this is in addition to a fantastic programme of CPD sessions, social activities, Young Planners events, regional awards, our Annual Dinner, the Presidential Visit and the AGM, in addition to the amazing work undertaken by our various task groups.
I’d very much welcome your input on these goals, and if you think there is something we can do better, I am always open to suggestions. But honestly, the best way to help shape your Institute and your profession is by volunteering. I know how precious your time is, but you really can make a difference. And it’s not too late to get involved – we welcome all members, old and new. Either way, I look forward to meeting as many as you as possible over the next 12 months and beyond.
RTPI NW Chair 2024