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RTPI practices aid professionals overseas


In the last of four blogs to mark the centenary of the RTPI, Laura Bartle of OpenPlan recalls how the institute has been a vital support for her while working overseas.

Laura Bartle of OpenPlanWhile I was studying for my master’s degree  and over the years that immediately followed, the RTPI’s influence on me related almost exclusively to the APC process and CPD.
That changed six months after I achieved chartered status when, in 2012, I started working in the Caribbean. I view this time as the start of a much stronger connection with the RTPI.
The role of the institute in the English-speaking Caribbean is well established and being a member substantiated my credibility and undoubtedly provided me with opportunities to make significant contributions to projects so early on in my career. This included policy formulation as part of the National Spatial Development Strategy for Trinidad and Tobago and, more recently, leading 
an Integrated Sustainability Appraisal as part of a Community Plan that OpenPlan is preparing on behalf of the Government of Barbados.

"The role and prestige of the Institute in the English-speaking Caribbean is very well-eastablished"

Many English-speaking Caribbean nations are working on reforming planning legislation from that which, in most cases, is based on the 1947 English Town and Country Planning Act, to better suit the issues faced by individual islands. Despite this colonial legacy, the principles and approaches adopted in the UK today are looked on as best practice, and I have been able to draw on this extensively. For example, objective-based policy is proving to be an attractive and successful alternative to the prescribed standards, zoning and subdivisions that our Caribbean counterparts are accustomed to.
This differs somewhat from my interpretation of the situation in China. Between 2005 and 2008 I was in Shanghai conducting dissertation-related research. From my interactions with students and a range of urban professionals it was clear that the interest at this time was on British urban design and architecture, rather than our planning methods and strategies – so the influence of the RTPI appeared much less here.
As well as seeing the benefits of RTPI association overseas, I’ve also been particularly interested in – and impressed with – the RTPI’s responses to the criticism that planning in the UK has faced over recent years. Publications such as the Planning Horizons series provide excellent material for the profession and, combined with a general feeling that the RTPI has significantly strengthened its voice at a national level, it has helped to improve my own perception of the status of planners in the UK. And with the eyes of other nations looking to us so closely, this can only help to bring about more chances for UK planners to spread their wings on the international scene too. 
Laura Bartle is an urban, spatial and community planner at OpenPlan, working in the UK and the Caribbean

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