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29/11/2019

We can change planning, one idea at a time

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Involving a wider range of people in discussions about place can generate better ideas for shaping and reshaping the villages, towns adn cities in which we live and work, says Kim Copper

As a town planner born, raised, educated and working in Liverpool, my ambition is to make my city the best it can be. Town planner or not, we all want to live somewhere that meets our needs and contributes to our happiness.

Across the world cities are facing challenges, from ageing populations to skills and housing shortages, the climate crisis and the impact of environment on mental health. Coupled with austerity and under-resourced local authorities, cities are at crisis point.

What’s the solution? I believe that to shape places that work for everyone, we need everyone's input; one person, one company, one organisation cannot achieve it alone. Ideas for Liverpool, born out of discussions between young planners at Arup, is a collaboration of 60 young professionals from 40 companies and 20 different disciplines. For six months, these young professionals have pooled their knowledge and creativity to develop tangible project ideas to improve our city.

“It’s planning, but it’s planning carried out by people who are not trained planners”

The result is a book of ideas that covers four core themes – mobility and work/life balance; health and wellbeing; skills and education; decarbonisation and the circular economy. Ideas include the Liverpool Tide Line, an unbroken path along the waterfront to improve access to job-rich parts of the city. There’s also WERK – suburban hot-desking using underutilised high street buildings, and Givapool, an online platform that aims to combat social isolation by linking participants with volunteering opportunities. There are many more. Critically, all the ideas draw on the use of land and resources within the city to support social, environmental and economic wellbeing.

It’s planning, but carried out by people who are not trained planners. Does this make it better than mainstream planning? It makes it different. Unconstrained by’ assumptions about the limitations of planning, participants can think creatively and bring their own disciplines to bear on our field. But Ideas for Liverpool does more than generate ideas; it creates a new way of thinking and working. In collaborating, we have provided a voice to our young professionals to help shape the Liverpool of their future.

It’s having real effects in supporting our local authority colleagues in their work. Participants have been invited to work with Liverpool City Council on the next iteration of their city plan. Two projects have received funding offers and the group itself is being taken on by Professional Liverpool to develop a delivery plan that makes the ideas a reality.

I’d like this project to be a call to action for all of the UK’s cities. Listen to your young professionals, empower them to speak up and value their thinking. What we’ve done here can be done anywhere. 

Kim Cooper is a senior town planner at Arup Liverpool. She is chair of RTPI North West for 2020 and founder of Ideas for Liverpool.

 

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