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18/10/2016

The Young Planners Conference – in quotes

Words: Simon Wicks
Young planners in Belfast

What was said at this year's Young Planners' conference in Belfast? From the need for smart planning for smart cities, to the role of planning in providing a platform for sustainable, equitable communities, here's a selection of key quotes from the two-day event that took place on 14-15 October.

The Young Planners’ conference this year was held in Belfast and took the theme of Planning for change: Shaping our Future.

The conference was shaped around four topics under this banner:

  • The Current Planning Context
  • The Smart City
  • The Healthy City
  • Planning for Social Cohesion

Here’s our pick of key quotes that give a flavour of the event. We'll be running a report in the next issue of The Planner, published in the first week of Novermber.


The planning context

Stephen Wilkinson, RTPI vice president

“To deliver good planning takes time, takes resource and takes thinking about the future. It’s about taking those long-term strategic decisions that take shape over the long term.”

“The population of London in 2030 will be 10 million. London becomes a megacity – the first time in the whole of Europe. There’s a question about the UK planning system in terms of how do we deal with London? Do we allow it to grow, soaking up the infrastructure spend? How will the regional cities compete with it? Should they compete with it?”

“We need to make some hard choices about the sort of places that we want people to live in. People cannot live in a market-led housing market at the moment.”

“As planners you are the guardians of local democracy. You are the gatekeepers. You enable local people to take decision on their environment. Without you, local democracy is under threat.”

“Technology is moving at a pace that is taking us places we thought we would never go. What does that mean for local plans? Are we now going to have local plans that deal with real time information and respond much quicker?”

“Traditional approaches to welfare target the individual. But issues of decline have a spatial dimension. Communities often have poor access to facilities and to the public transport that gets them to places of employment.”

“As planners you are the guardians of local democracy. You are the gatekeepers. You enable local people to take decision on their environment. Without you, local democracy is under threat.”

Angus Kerr: director of planning policy, Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure

“Planning shoudn’t be about numbers. Our focus should be about outcomes and creating great places.”

“Much of the work [of planning] is not considered by indicators. We’re working to develop a broader performance framework to help drive continuous improvement across the planning system [in Northern Ireland].”

“One of the key elements of planning is politics. You have to have a good and astute understanding of politics in order to deliver anything.”

Roisin Willmott, RTPI director for Wales and Northern Ireland

“It’s become very clear since we have had Leslie Griffiths [Welsh cabinet secretary with responsibility for planning] there has been a shift in thinking towards ‘We have the processes, stop obsessing about them. Get on with thinking about what the end result will be.’ They are trying to embed a culture. How we do that is quite difficult. It takes a lot of change. But you [young planners] are some of the answers to that change.”


The Smart City

Dr Mary Keeling, global program director of economic analysis and market development for IBM

“The metrics of progress do say that things are improving. You can point to physical things and say ‘Look we built new buildings and we’ve got schools and transport systems etc’. While physical is necessary to underpin and drive progress and growth and quality of life, it’s not sufficient. Increasingly the stuff that’s going to underpin progress will be stuff that you can’t see. But you will be able to feel it and sense it by knowing how good and how bad the services are that you consume.”

“We are a city based world now. That’s not going to change. People are not going to decide to move back to the countryside.”

“You need transport networks that work effectively. Ultimately, all roads are doing is taking people and things from A to B. It’s the channel of mobility. Where are people and where do they want to go?”

“Integrated ticketing should be absolutely mandatory for all cities. A single ticket allows you to analyse where people go. Then you can strip out the parts of the services that people aren’t using.”

“As you plan things, you have to think how can we turn it into a device that provides data? What’s the data and information that we can get from this?”

“The barriers are not technical. It almost always comes down to people.”

Prof. Dr Edwin van der Krabben, professor of urban planning and property development, Raboud University

“In Europe we tell cities the future is with you. But we don’t give them the appropriate financial powers to deal with that.”

“We’re moving from a Europe of the regions to a Europe of cities. Why do we need an urban agenda? In 2050, 80 per cent of the population of Europe will live in cities.”

“We’re moving from a Europe of the regions to a Europe of cities. Why do we need an urban agenda? In 2050, 80 per cent of the population of Europe will live in cities.”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with our high streets. Will there be demand for retail space? We don’t know what transport will look like in 15, 20 years. Are we going to invest in that or what?”

“How do you make it attractive to the private sector to invest in climate proofing?”

“Do we go for regulatory planning framework solutions or market driven solutions? Do we want to support bottom-up local cooperative initiatives of large-scale industry-led initiatives? How do we create a level playing field to prevent the private sector investing in the easy green field locations instead of urban transformation?”

Stephen Hilton, director of futures, Bristol City Council

“Everyone wants their cities to be smart, but nobody wants them to be smart Alecs.”

“The divide between the people who are benefiting from smart city technologies and those who aren’t is possibly increasing.”

“Future planners will need to be the masters of complexity.”

“Smart cities are those that plan to experiment. They take risks. As citizens of city regions we are all now part of that experiment. We all have a duty to work out what we need to do differently in order to address the challenges that we are facing. It’s an emerging social contract.”


The Healthy City

Riccardo Marini, director of Gehl Architects

“You measure what you care about. Most cities have incredible data about car movements. Very few have data about people – where they are, what they do, when they do it. How can you plan for people if you don’t know what they want or what they are doing?”

“You’re chewing up the countryside until you get your six million [motorway] exits and then you wonder why our health is suffering.”

“You’re chewing up the countrsyide until you get your six million [motorway] exits and then you wonder why our health is suffering.”

Jonna Monaghan, health and wellbeing manager, Belfast Healthy Cities

 “Healthcare systems are important but they cannot create health. They can only deal with the health problems that arise”

“What works for older people often makes things easier for the rest of us.”


Planning for social cohesion

Mike Harris, RTPI deputy head of policy and research

“More than 70 million people a year join the urban population. It’s no exaggeration to say that sustainable urban development will determine our future over the next 100, 200 years. If we don’t get it right, we don’t have a sustainable, equitable future.”

“Commentators and placemakers tend to individualise poverty. The argument we are making to those audiences is that there’s a much broader set of social factors that can determine poverty and inequality and people’s life chances. That’s where planning is so important. If you cannot get to a job interview, you are going to struggle to find and maintain work.”

"It’s no exaggeration to say that sustainable urban development will determine our future over the next 100, 200 years. If we don’t get it right, we don’t have a sustainable, equitable future.”

“We’ve been trying to diagnose where the anti-planning agenda is coming from… It’s based on a highly abstract view of markets. What we have been trying to do is show that markets do not work like that in the real world. The reality is far more complex and planning is often not the reason that things don’t get built.”

“Lack of planning and poor planning wastes the potential of places and people. That’s really an attack on the potential of communities and the potential of people. The kind of positive planning we want to see is all about encouraging and supporting the potential of communities and places.”

Aisling Shannon Rusk, architect and PhD researcher, Queen’s University Belfast

‘The number of Peace Walls in Belfast has increased significantly since the Good Friday Agreement, which is shameful. They are still going up. Some are iconic. Others are much more subtle. Some are just rows of derelict houses in built-up areas where nothing has been built because of rioting. No-one wants to invest in them. To local people it’s a ‘Don’t cross’ line, the edge of our territory.”

“We are very often reactive when we work. How can some of us spend more of our time in a proactive space? It’s about being open to and trying new ways of doing things.”


Read more from the event on the RTPI website.


Main photo | Aidan Monagahan

Belfast city centre photos | Simon Wicks

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