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Northern Power: A preview of Planner Live North

Words: The Planner

Wednesday May 12 will see the inaugural Planner Live North, a one-day (virtual) conference dedicated to Northern issues. What’s it all about?

An offshoot of last year’s successful The Planner Live conference, The Planner Live North will be a one-day virtual event with a focus on big issues affecting the north of England: economic recovery; climate change; sustainable infrastructure; engaged communities; and healthy town centres.

It’ll look at what planning can do to meet these challenges while also attracting sustainable investment and growth to a region that lags behind the South on most economic indicators.

A mixture of keynote speeches and panel discussions, the event will feature speakers as varied as housing minister Christopher Pincher MP and Dame Sarah Storey, Paralympic cyclist and active travel commissioner for Sheffield.

But what kind of views and insight can you expect to hear?


“Recovery and resilience is about thinking harder about the right mix of infrastructure, other external support and community-led initiatives. Communities often know what they need and getting bottom up to work with top down is the challenge we face.”- Bridget Rosewell, National Infrastructure Commission – Planning for community resilience and sustainable economic recovery, 10.05am



“What’s needed to build an active travel strategy for the North is a consistent and inclusive long-term plan with key milestones and appropriate funding.”-  Joanna Ward, freelance transport planner – Planning for Active Travel, 3.10pm





The best way to achieve a planned approach to energy in the North? “The Humber’s flexible development-focused approach to planning secured Siemens Gamesa and the Humber Freeport. You can hear how planners can be growth enablers in the ‘A planned Northern energy approach’ session.” - Alex Codd, city economic development and regeneration manager, Hull City Council – A planned Northern energy approach, 3.10pm



“The first step towards climate resilient design is to think about it as an integral part of a scheme. Too often climate change is dealt with as an ‘add-on’, or through the application of minimum standards. Designed in early, adaptation and mitigation need not lead to costly solutions and issues with viability. In the North, we’re seeking to secure the best outcomes for climate, nature and people  through good design. The RTPI is leading the way in terms of corporate policy and promoting best practice in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” - Tim Crawshaw MRTPI, urban transport planner and vice-president, RTPI – Designing for a Changing Climate, 3.10pm



“If everywhere is only accessed by vehicle, then you’re instantly removing a third of the population who don’t have access to that vehicle in the first place. The prerequisite to having access to opportunity shouldn’t be that you need a car.” - Dame Sarah Storey, active travel commissioner for Sheffield City Region – Planning for Active Travel, 3.10pm  Read our full interview with Dame Sarah Storey.


Interview: Edna Robinson – Towards a more resilient Northern identity

Edna Robinson is chair of The People’s Powerhouse, founded to ensure that communities are at the heart of plans for the Northern Powerhouse. She’ll be speaking in the session titled ‘How to build resilient and engaged communities’.

On how we think about ‘the North’

“It makes me anxious when we talk about the area in a patronising or paternalistic way. But when you look at certain measures in terms of prosperity and economic growth then we do have significant needs.

“We have a low-wage economy, poverty inequality and health inequality among ethnic minority communities. There’s no doubt the pandemic has hit the North hard. We’ve been in lockdown virtually the whole time.”

On the move towards regional devolution

“There’s a massive pride and sense of identity about being Northern people and we are seeing regional politics becoming more and more significant. Even the Welsh are talking more about independence.

“Because we are over-centralised as a country we need to see some clear decentralising of decisions about economic growth and the ability to raise taxes. There needs to be an adult conversation about how the North can create its own decision-making –I hate to use the word ‘powers’… about what the North’s ‘entitlements’ are, in terms of things like investment in infrastructure and investment per head of population.

“There’s a standard that could be set that the people of the North could expect and then decisions about how those things would be delegated. Up to now we’ve seen the mayoral concept emerge. But those deals [ie, city deals] have been done behind closed doors and they are all different. Some mayors have powers that other mayors don’t. We deserve better. There’s a need for a constitutional discussion about what the North’s entitlements can and should be, and it can’t be in a smoke-filled room.”

“Because we are over-centralised as a country we need to see some clear decentralising of decisions about economic growth”

On creating new governance models

“If we just cut and paste the current system, I feel quite fearful of that because we would still have a disenfranchised population. This is about a very strong sense of regional identity and ownership. We need to look to other parts of Europe where there’s a very strong sense of regional identity, of uniqueness, and often the sense of wanting to separate – but these things don’t come without risk.

“The idea that we are living in a risk-free environment is laughable. Look at the nonsensical way in which government departments don’t connect with each other. Then this whole issue about whether we are going to a regional identity when there’s not even a regional decision-making process.

“We’re talking about deliberative debate and citizens’ assemblies. It’s not about saying there are binary answers to things. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer but I do think there’s enough energy and thought to try this.”

On why we need change now

“One reason we’re clamouring for these solutions is because we are in pain about our identity. We’re grasping for solutions, and often the wrong ones. People are hurting. We need to have a conversation about our core values and what Britishness actually is beyond Brexit. A conversation about integrity, responsibility, decency and that issue to do with economics and greed. And when it comes to geography, let’s have a different discussion.”

Find out more about The People’s Powerhouse

Programme: Planner Live North: Powering up the North through planning

Wednesday 12 May 2021

9.30am Welcome and Presidential address – Wei Yang MRTPI, president, RTPI

9.40am Keynote address – Clive Betts MP, Labour MP for Sheffield South East

9.50am Political address – Christopher Pincher MP, minister of state for MHCLG

10.05am Plenary 1: Planning for community resilience and sustainable economic recovery.

11.20am Choice of In-Focus breakout sessions:

  • 1: How to create resilient town centres
  • 2: How to build resilient and engaged communities
  • 3: Sustainable infrastructure for our future needs

2.00pm Plenary 2: Planning to tackle climate change

3.00pm Expo

3.10pm Choice of In-Focus breakout sessions:

  • 4: Planning for Active Travel
  • 5: Designing for a Changing Climate
  • 6 - A planned Northern energy approach

4.05pm Political Keynote

4.20pm Closing remarks: Victoria Hill MRTPI – chief executive, RTPI  

Find out more and book on the RTPI website

Image credit | iStock