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Blog: CPD won't be as challenging now Summer School is lost

A lesson in a classroom

After 80 years the Town and Country Planning Summer School charity (TCPSS) has been forced to close as it is no longer possible to deliver the charitable objective of running an annual school following a long and steady decline in those attending.

It is a sad reflection of our times that this august institution can no longer hold its place in the crowded market place for keeping planners and elected members alert to the roles they play in our complex planning systems.

The pressure on LPA budgets and the focus for them on delivering the service at the least possible cost has had a big impact on TCPSS, which was always about taking time away from work to reflect on what we do as planners and councillors.

The modern approach to CPD seems to be about one-day events and in-house training rather than the more challenging and enjoyable offer of TCPSS.

Devolution has also had its effect as the four UK planning systems become more divergent, making it increasingly difficult to provide a UK-wide school as has been the tradition of TCPSS with its core venues over the years of St Andrews, York, Exeter and Swansea.

More marked has been the impact of the changes in the planning world with increasing numbers of planners employed in the private sector.

I first attended the school in the early 1970s as a young planner, having been fortunate to be nominated by my small rural LPA to attend. At that time 
TCPSS was attracting about 700 delegates, mainly from the public sector, where most planners were then employed.

A feature of the school from its origins was that it was for those involved in planning as elected members, not just professional planners. Following the Local Government Act in 1972, which created a large number of new LPAs, a separate four-day weekend Councillors’ School was established alongside the then eight-day Planners’ School.

The TCPSS attracted top speakers and workshop leaders, both national and international. Indeed in 1979 the Rt Hon Michael Heseltine made his notorious “jobs locked in filing cabinets” speech. TCPSS leaves a proud legacy, including the many young planners from emerging nations who attended the school under our special fund.

During my three years as president we continued the radical changes introduced by my predecessors to try to stem the decline in numbers. It is a great regret that these changes were insufficient to save the charity.

Leonora Rozee is a former president of the Planning Summer School and former deputy chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate


Sir George Young's Speech to the 1991 TCPSS was an opportunity for the Government to flag up the change in direction after the Environment White Paper, which foreshadowed revised PPG3, PPG6 and PPG13. It was an opportunity to set out the stall of new thinking in planning.

Well done Leonora for trying so hard.
My recollections are that the programme content was always innovative and I suspect that media news and intelligence immediacy has also taken a toll on the TCPSS. And the Shepley & Co Grotton shows I believe started at the TCPSS.
Remembered with much affection especially the evening networking sessions!!


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