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20/02/2020

Pull down the barriers to build better planning careers

Planners should remove the barriers between different specialisms to make planning more inclusive, says Alexandra Egge.

I have always been fascinated by the way the built environment influences the course of people’s lives. I followed this curiosity to a master’s degree in spatial planning, where I explored the impact of urban design upon wayfinding and the psychological processes of navigating the built environment.

I wanted to understand how to use urban design to create vibrant, walkable cities and how to dissect the psychological systems underpinning them. I was drawn to transport planning as a way to apply this analytical approach to placemaking on a larger scale.

As a transport planner, I work to create mobility systems that respond to human behaviour and connect communities. Transport planning is at times viewed as a niche corner of the planning industry, but when we consider the transformational power of mobility to improve access to jobs and services, create viable new sites for development and support regeneration, it becomes clear that transport is at the very heart of effective placemaking.

I’m an advocate for the integration of social and placemaking impacts of transport projects to ensure that community outcomes are at the heart of projects from the start.

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 creates a legal requirement to embed sustainable development into development. My colleagues and I are pioneering new tools for transport planners to embed this act into our decisions to ensure that the transport systems we’re building today will create resilient communities in the future.

I’m constantly trying to think about the holistic interplay of systems within spaces and it’s this perspective that prompted me to change the way we consider community wellbeing impacts in the transport sector.

“There is much to be gained when we remove the barriers between different specialisms”

I believe my background in spatial planning makes me a more holistically minded transport planner and my experience within transport planning makes me a more analytical spatial planner. There is much to be gained when we remove the barriers between different specialisms and encourage people to move between sectors and develop truly multidisciplinary views of planning. By working with specialists in different fields, from transport to health to ecology, planners gain a better understanding of the complex systems within which we operate and how to ensure that a holistic view shapes planning decisions.

I recommend young planners to consider developing a specialism in transport, health, economics or another niche at the start of their careers. The best way to foster a dynamic and inclusive planning profession is to give experts from a range of sectors a place at the table. 

Alexandra Egge is a transport planner at Mott McDonald and the first RTPI Cymru Young Planner of the Year

Image credit | iStock

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