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05/09/2016

Event preview: A timely delivery

Planners need to view the recent changes to planning services in Northern Ireland as a journey, Northern Ireland Planning Conference organiser Roisin Willmott tells Martha Harris

“No one was under the illusion that it would be easy,” says Roisin Willmott, head of RTPI Northern Ireland, of April 2015’s devolution of planning powers to 11 new ‘super councils’. But a year on, “the systems are up and running and now is the time to look at how they can evolve and improve”, she says.

Evolution and improvement within a reformed system will provide the thrust for a one-day conference that will blend ‘big picture’ themes with consideration of some of the more technical aspects of planning as a professional discipline in the 21st century.

In particular, this year’s Northern Ireland Planning Conference on 15 November will, says Willmott, consider issues that “don’t often get discussed in the day to day” but are crucial when developing and delivering planning services, such as, “who leads planning, what value does planning deliver, how can we be more effective in our delivery and is it possible to evaluate good design?”

Overall, she says, the conference with its theme of ‘Planning: Delivering for Northern Ireland’, will seek to raise appreciation that planning is an “essential ingredient” for delivering places and providing the spatial framework for services across the country.

Infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard will kick off the day with an account of the planning aims for the country going forward, and how they link with infrastructure. The conference will also feature talks from RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott, chair of the Planning Officers Society for Wales, Mark Hand, Rob Cowan of consultancy Urban Design Skills, and Kevin Murray of Kevin Murray Associates.


Planning: Delivering for Northern Ireland – Programme

Ministerial address
Chris Hazzard MLA

The value of planning
Trudi Elliott, RTPI chief executive

Who leads planning?
Kevin Murray, Kevin Murray Associates

Tools for assessing quality development designs
Rob Cowan, Urban Design Skills

Enhancing outcomes through performance monitoring
Mark Hand, chair, Planning Officers Society for Wales


Alongside the main plenary sessions a series of breakout seminars will allow for discussion on more detailed aspects of planning, as well as quick 10-minute briefings on good practice projects, including The Gobbins Cliff Path and the Department for Infrastructure’s ‘Living Places’ design guide.

“Of course, one of the benefits of attending the conference is the chance to catch up with colleagues in different organisations and meet new people to exchange ideas,” adds Wilmott, “so we’ve built in lots of breaks.”

Aside from topical presentations and valuable networking opportunities, Wilmott says the conference will “provide a forum to encourage discussion from different perspectives and encourage those working in Northern Ireland and beyond, to share ideas and good practice.”

The conference will offer a “useful CPD opportunity”, and attendance offers are in place, including a discounted rate for RTPI student and licentiate members.

Ultimately, Willmott hopes planners will take away from the conference some “practical inspiration”.

"What value does planning deliver, how can we be more effective in our delivery and is it possible to evaluate good design?"

“Our speakers will share insights and challenges to inspire but all set in the context of practical application.”

On what the focus of planning in Northern Ireland should be in the immediate future, Wilmott says: “Planning and planners need to take the initiative, whilst it is still relatively new in councils, to provide leadership; the true value of planning needs to be demonstrated.

“From a practical perspective, it is imperative that local authorities focus on developing their Local Development Plans, as these will make the marked difference for planning in Northern Ireland.”


The details

What: Northern Ireland Planning Conference
Where:  Riddel Hall, Stranmillis Rd, Belfast BT9 5EE, UK
When: 15 November 2016
Find out more: www.tinyurl.com/planner0916-NI-1511

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