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How many planners does it take to change a light bulb?

Light bulbs

In the second of a series of blogs marking the RTPI's centenary, Scotland director Craig McLaren says the institute helps planners to focus on the big picture

Craig McLarenOn being asked to write about what the RTPI means to me. I pondered on the thought that planners can sometimes be criticised for being part of an – at times – cumbersome process. We become the butt of bad jokes about how many planners does it take to change a light bulb, with critics teasing us by saying that if this was the case we would we need one to undertake impact assessments looking at wattage, colour and type of light bulb; one to check if it is in accordance with the light bulb development plan; one to undertake an extensive community engagement exercise; one to organise the survey to ensure it doesn’t impact on bats… and so it goes on.
The weakness in this criticism is the presumption that a light bulb is always the answer. And that’s where RTPI comes in. In my mind, the institute has a key role in supporting planners to take a step back, to reflect on the big challenges and issues faced in our day-to-day work; to lift our eyes and look to alternative ideas. The expertise in the institute’s membership allows us to develop new thinking and to promote these ideas and messages to influence the legislative and policy contexts that we work within.

"The institute has a key role in supporting planners to take a step back and reflect on the big challenges"

The institute’s accreditation programmes and professional standards setting encourages planners to look beyond the one dimensional approach, beyond the short term, beyond the confines of a discipline or funding programme, and, beyond the immediacy of our own backyard. It can help planners to act as the enablers, facilitators and solution providers that make great places for people.
And the institute’s training, CPD, and online resources allow people to find out more about groundbreaking initiatives and to hear about the big picture. We’re rightly proud of planning, and the institute’s awards identify and showcase the best of planning to others across the globe. As an international organisation, RTPI can help us to share and learn from the different approaches being taken to planning across the UK and Ireland, and beyond; the policy and research output this year is changing the nature of debates on big challenges we face domestically and globally, such as housing, the economy, spatial thinking and climate change.
This is a collective effort with the institute acting as the focus by bringing together planners, staff, stakeholders and partners to support one another and to explore how best to ‘change the light bulb’ or, dare I say, come up with an alternative light bulb ‘eureka moment’ of doing something differently.
Craig McLaren is director of RTPI Scotland
Read more centenary blogs:

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