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The planning review: Issues, ideas and innovation


Nikola Miller, RTPI Scotland’s planning policy and practice officer, shares her insights on the recent Scottish Young Planners’ Conference, which featured time travellers and emojis.

Nikola MillerWhat is the collective noun for a group of planners? A vision of planners? A consultation of planners? The resounding winner suggested at this year’s Scottish Young Planners’ Conference? A brilliance of planners, clearly reflected by the enthusiasm, drive and inquisitive nature of each planner present on the day.

The Scottish Young Planners’ Conference has developed a reputation over the past decade as a key event within the profession in Scotland, with high-profile speakers, great networking opportunities and a real buzz about the day. It’s the kind of conference that more experienced planners look at enviously! This year was no exception.

Alex Neil MSP, cabinet secretary for communities, social justice and pensioners’ rights, spoke provocatively to delegates, challenging young planners to take a leading role in changing the image of planning.

The minister encouraged them to lead a revolution in participation and engagement in the planning system to allow people to see planners, planning and the planning system as a positive thing – a driver of economic change and part of the solution, not part of the problem.

A key part of any Scottish Young Planners’ Conference is a focus on personal career development, encouraging confident, able and enthusiastic planners to work their way up in their careers to become the directors or heads of planning of the future, leaders of the profession and drivers of change.

Keith Winter, executive director of enterprise and environment at Fife Council, inspired young planners to see themselves as leaders, to understand themselves and their style of leadership and, importantly, to not be afraid to try in the pursuit of personal and professional growth. Leadership in any profession, but particularly planning, is about value added and flexibility to change.

Emma Rigg, chair of the Scottish Young Planners’ Network steering group in 2015-16, gave her young planner’s perspective on planning reform, culture change and the profession. She described planners as “unsung heroes” and travellers through time. Rigg threw down the gauntlet for young planners to be ambitious, to reflect and engage with other disciplines, to lead culture change, to be motivated and to continue to be #happyplanners.

“Planners are time travellers, connecting communities of the present with the future”

Four young planners got on their soapboxes to kick off the afternoon session, presenting their themes of a millennial’s perspective on planning reform: increasing public engagement in planning; a light-hearted look at navigating the Assessment of Professional Competence process; and explaining the housing crisis in five minutes by emoji!

An afternoon of lively workshops by high-profile planners on housing, infrastructure and community and place provoked discussion and interaction, promoting and evidencing planning as a positive driver of change.

Tweets from the day can be found by searching the hashtag #sypc2016.


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