Log in | Register

RTPI Young Planners’ Conference in quotes

Words: Laura Edgar
Dr Hugh Ellis

The annual RTPI Young Planners’ Conference surveyed the challenges facing young planners as they build their careers in a world preoccupied with concerns around governance, population growth and climate change.

Held at Bristol’s M Shed, the conference drew high profile speakers from the worlds of planning, development and placemaking, who presented on topics as varied as how to resolve the housing crisis, how to implement critical infrastructure and how to create cities that promote wellbeing – all within an English planning system described by one delegate as “morally decapitated”.

The Planner was there and we’ve collected some of the key quotes from the conference, to give you a flavour of the event.

On planning

“We can’t any of us do it on our own. It’s about co-operation, it’s about understanding neighbourhood and about community, and unless you get under the skin of the community you are working with you are never going to be a good planner.” George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol

“It’s hard work to do good things. It shouldn’t be but it is. It’s damned hard work. The whole process of the planning system at the moment makes it very tricky to do things in a positive way.” David Warburton, head of area for the West of England, Homes and Communities Agency

“Have we lost the art of what we do?” Mike Harris, senior town planner, Stride Treglown (and member of the conference organising committee)

“Planning is held in higher esteem in Scotland or Wales than maybe it is in England.” Janet Askew, vice president, RTPI

Housing and Population

“The reason people are NIMBYs is many and varied. My contention is that they don’t trust that the infrastructure will happen and they have good reason to believe that. So the development industry has to put infrastructure first.”  David Cowans, Chief Executive, Places for People

“Garden cities are not viable under our current house building and planning system. But yes, they should be a necessary part of a co-ordinated national programme.” Gerry Hughes, national head of planning, development and regeneration, GVA

Infrastructure challenge

“What we have to do is try to convince people that taking space away from vehicles actually creates nice places and people will still be able to do business.” Julia Dean, MetroBus and MetroWest Communications Manager, West of England Partnership

RTPI Centenary reflections

“The first time the word planning was used was in the Housing, Town Planning, Etc, Act 1909. And that’s what we are still all about today – the etc.” Janet Askew, vice president of the RTPI

Environment resilience

“Over half the world’s population now lives in cities – for the first time ever. Around 3.5 billion people. They take up just two per cent of the world’s land mass. But that two percent has a massive footprint. Cities produce more than two-thirds of CO2 emissions, and consume two-thirds of the world’s energy.” Jon Kirkpatrick, head of sustainability, Lend Lease EMEA

“We can’t keep pumping millions and millions of pounds into building better defences. Spatial planning and good design is the best way that we can build in flood resilience as we go forward. In most cases the new developments we are seeing are not resilient.” Rachael Hill, national flood and coastal risk manager, Environment Agency

“A lot of the new data is citizen generated. For example, using sports wristbands we can begin to infer what people actually feel about places. And we can use that information to help us design better public realm and transport systems.” Jonathan Speed, Future Cities Catapult

Reassessing our systems

“Since I’ve been a planner the policy has had more reincarnations than Dr Who. It seems to me that process has become the guiding principle.” Ralph Ward, UK Regeneration

“There’s a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality of planning, the world we are trying to achieve in our imaginations and the real world. Take new towns, for example. I cannot think of any new town that I want to visit for pleasure or particularly to live in. Garden cities – they are not gardens and they are not cities but we still persist in this vague aspiration of what they might be.” Ralph Ward

“I have never seen a government this badly organised, this incompetent. This truly is the age of stupid. You cannot do worse than these people.” Dr Hugh Ellis, head of policy, Town and Country Planning Association

“In England planning is dead. It’s absolutely on its knees, for a variety of reasons. This is where we start the fight back.” Dr Hugh Ellis

“For the last 30 years I’ve believed that planning is a sure way to make better places for people. You as a generation need to take up this mantle.” Dr Hugh Ellis