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01/10/2013

RTPI Blog: Positive influence

Man with food - You don’t have to invite politicians to expensive dinners to gain influence.

You don’t have to invite politicians to expensive dinners to gain influence. RTPI President Dr Peter Geraghty reports on how the Institute works hard to have a say over the planning agenda across the UK and Ireland.

Done in the right way, by making a powerful and compelling case, by putting forward ideas and practical solutions, often through face to face contacts, policy and legislation can be influenced in a positive way.  
 
In fact, across the UK and Ireland politicians often regard the knowledge and expertise of RTPI members as being invaluable in helping to get a policy right.
 
These days almost every organisation is attempting to influence policy and devoting resources to doing this. From multinational companies with whole teams of lobbyists to the smallest of charities, ministers and senior civil servants are inundated with requests for meetings, telephone calls, briefing papers and proposals for amendments. One member of the House of Lords, who by his own admission was relatively unknown, told me he had received more than 80 briefings about aspects of planning when a piece of legislation was about to be considered.
 
I am writing this article on the train coming back from the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. The train is crammed with officers from organisations doing exactly what we were trying to do – build political relationships and ultimately influence policy. Relationship building, over time and across the political divide, is crucial.
 
Craig McLaren, our national director, Scotland and Ireland, told me: “In Scotland we have established very good working relationships with ministers and MSPs over many years. They know that they can rely on us to give impartial and expert advice that is solution focused. It is very important, while retaining your right to be critical of policy, to work constructively with the government of the day, as well as groups of MSPs, on a particular issue.” 
 
Reforms in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Localism Act and the Growth and Infrastructure Acts are all better for the input of the RTPI and the views of its members. 
 

"Relationship building, over time and across the political divide, is crucial"

 
Some of the work we do is very public – appearing on TV and radio to explain the way planning works and dispelling some of the rumours that still abound about planning. Some of the work is public but not so well reported  – such as appearing before committees in Parliament, Stormont, Holyrood, and Cardiff Bay.
 
Roisin Willmott, national director, RTPI Cymru and Northern Ireland, can be penning an article for a local newspaper one day, taking part in a ministerial advisory task force that afternoon and preparing to give evidence to a Welsh Assembly committee the following day. “It is vital to use every means possible to get your views across. Our members are our greatest asset because they have such a wealth of knowledge and experience and ministers realise this," she told me.
 
Some of what we do is necessarily behind the scenes. At a recent Parliamentary reception, former Labour planning minister John Healey said the RTPI was one of the most effective bodies in influencing public policy that he had ever dealt with. Planning minister Nick Boles also recently praised the constructive work of the RTPI in helping to shape policy and paid a special tribute to chief executive Trudi Elliott for her ‘outstanding work’ on the Taylor Guidance Review. 
 
The Institute has provided information and advice to politicians on planning for almost 100 years. Influencing policy for the public good is part of our charter and central to what we do. 
 
For more information on the work the RTPI is doing to influence policy, click here
 

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