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RTPI Blog: Leading the debate


Richard Blyth, RTPI Head of Policy Practice & Research, explains the role and value of the policy work the institute does and some of the key issues being tackled by our policy and advocacy staff.

A key aim of the RTPI is to lead policy debates, establish new approaches and ultimately to influence national planning policies. Everything we do is inspired by our mission to advance the art and science of town and country planning for the benefit of the public. We want to promote good planning and raise the standards of the profession. To help us to achieve this we provide a wealth of knowledge about planning, including detailed information on key planning topics and core issues, research activities and a range of publications.
In future articles we will highlight the very important policy work our members are engaged in across the UK and Ireland. One key area of work I am coordinating at present is the production of a series of new policy papers, including ones on strategic planning, infrastructure transport and economic growth. These have two purposes. The first is to crystallise what the RTPI thinks about an important issue.  This means we have an open call for evidence on the website and also run roundtables for invited experts around the UK. It is important to us that our take on a key issue is one which reflects common views across national boundaries. 
The second purpose is to broadcast our recommendations for putting some things right. For example, our Delivering Large Scale Housing paper made 15 recommendations to help to solve the housing crisis in England and Scotland. We think it is important for governments, commentators and the public to have practical ideas and solutions to consider; often debates around planning matters tend towards the ideological. We also think it is vital that a profession as important as planning has a powerful voice.
Next year is the RTPI centenary. We are developing five centenary ‘Policy Futures’ papers. These will take a step back from immediate policy concerns and take a long term, as well as global view, of planning and the contribution it can make to some of the major challenges we face in the 21st century. The projects are: Future proofing society; Planning for economic growth and enterprise; Urbanisation and health; Spatial thinking in policy; and Governance.
In one sense, we face many of the same challenges now as we did a century ago – the need for quality affordable housing, improved public health (particularly in cities) and how to balance economic development with the protection of the countryside. In other respects we are confronted by a wholly new set of challenges, such as climate change, demographic shifts (including an ageing society), the rise of ‘lifestyle diseases’ and increasing competition in a globalised world.
We welcome the engagement of members in these projects. We particularly welcome suggestions for UK and international case studies which demonstrate the role and value of planners and planning in relation to these challenges.
Our policy work is ongoing. We regularly respond to key consultations from national governments, usually with input from the policy panels and committees established in each nation. We are frequently out of the office attending meetings with officials and other organisations, seeking to influence and raise the profile of planning this way. Quite often the response is “I’d no idea that was anything to do with planning!” In our experience this is a common fallacy which goes a long way to encouraging the marginalisation of planners within public and private enterprises. Our work on your behalf continually seeks to set the record straight.
For more information on the policy work of the RTPI and how you can get involved click here
For information on our Centenary policy work click here 


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