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Planning's leading role: The Planning Convention 2015 in review

Words: Martin Read
Steve Quartermain at The Planning Convention 2015

Language, leadership and linking up with emerging technologies – three principal themes to emerge from a lively 2015 RTPI Planning Convention

Following chief planner Steve Quartermain’s traditional breakfast Q&A session, it was a shame that planning minister Brandon Lewis, due to follow, ended up a no-show. His presentation instead appeared on video across four giant screens, giving a somewhat surreal start to the day. But the convention’s heavy hitters soon made up for the disappointment of not being able to engage with the minister in person.

The event’s theme of ‘The New Politics For Planning’ was neatly encapsulated in the two presentations by Birmingham City Council’s Waheed Nazir and Eugénie Birch of the World Urban Campaign. Nazir addressed the direct political connection, his near-revolutionary approach in Birmingham bringing swoons from those we spoke to; Birch’s expansive speech focused on planning’s inevitable and urgent requirement to tackle the major sustainable, environmental and social issues exposed by the world’s certain urban growth.

Together, Nazir and Birch had the politics theme covered, but similarly illuminating presentations from the likes of NHS England’s Sir Malcolm Grant, UCL’s Michael Edwards and Dr Rick Robinson showed that although there is plenty of frustration at the outlook of the profession and how it is portrayed, the desire and need for planning at a macro level is, if anything, of increasing importance.

Click the links below to read about each of the day's sessions in more detail. We hope you’ll get a strong sense of a vibrant and thought-provoking event.

Steve Quartermain, chief plannerAsk the chief planner

The difficulty of delivering housing and the importance of local plans were the dominant themes as this year's 'Ask the chief planner' session. Read more


Janet Askew RTPI presidentA call for stability

In a plea to government, RTPI president Janet Askew called for more "stability"mand "certainty" to be incorporated into the planning system. Read more


Eugenie BirchPlanning's global importance

Eugénie Birch was booked to give the biggest possible picture of planning's global importance - and she delivered in spades. Read more


Waheed NazirCity visionary

"We need to liberate ourselves from well-intentioned bureaucracy." As a mantra for a bold approach to planning, it sums up the transformation of Birmingham city centre under Waheed Nazir. Read more

Nathalie LievenLawyers' "power grab" over planning

There has been a "power grab" by lawyers over planners, taking control of the planning system over the last three years, according to Nathalie Lieven QC, barrister at Landmark Chambers. Read more

Dr Rick RobinsonSmart thinking

Smart cities What do we really know about them? For Dr Rick Robinson, a 'smart' city uses technology to drive operational efficiency, and it adapts to teh ways in which technology can transform our realtionships with place, space and the services we use. Read more

Prof Malcolm GrantAdapting healthcare for longer lives

The 70 years since the formation of the National Health Service have seen nothing less than a "complete transformation of modern life", in which life expectancy goes up year after year. Read more

Michael EdwardsWinners and losers in the pursuit of growth

Green belts and the protection of the countryside are a couple of British planning's greatest achievements - but they have taken on another role as components in conditioning the performance of property markets. Read more

Vincent GoodstadtA new professionalism

Planning, said Vincent Goodstadt, is widely depicted in the media and politics as "an impediment to growth", a brake on the natural operation of the market. Read more


Pam EwenFresh strategies

"We're planning not for our children but for our children's children's children," said TAYplan manager Pam Ewen. "It's that long-term spatial thinking that's really imprtant when we talk about strategic planning." Read more