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Young planners must be equipped to meet the task of reaching a net-zero world

Planning apprentice Abbie Miladinovic urges young planners not to be cowed by the challenges of climate change, but to rise to them

Having worked as a planner for three years before starting my planning apprenticeship in 2019, I had already experienced a fair share of ‘big planning challenges’ for someone so early on in their career; Leeds had been through two local plan examinations and the government had published its Fixing the Broken Housing Market white paper and a new NPPF.

While all this was happening, I was busy finding my feet and learning the ropes supporting the city’s 35+ neighbourhood planning groups.

Witnessing the resilience, adaptability and dynamism of my colleagues through times of challenge has taught me a great deal about my future as a planner and the skills I need. As I near the end of my apprenticeship, the pace of planning change shows no signs of slowing. National policy continues to evolve, and the 2020 planning white paper signalled “radical” transformation in our practice.

On top of this, the climate emergency looms over us with no immediate or easy solutions. It would be easy for young planners to feel daunted, possibly overwhelmed, by it all. 

I take a more optimistic view. In Leeds, we benefit from a wide range of people and organisations engaged in tackling the climate emergency, including the council, the Leeds Climate Commission, and the Leeds Sustainability Institute. Being an apprentice gives me the flexibility to gain wider experience as part of my professional development, a massive opportunity to soak it all up, learn from colleagues across and outside of the profession, try new things and seek out new opportunities to collaborate.

“The climate emergency looms over us with no immediate or easy solutions. It would be easy for young planners to feel daunted”

Through harnessing these opportunities, young planners can start to shape the profession and ensure that it adapts to contemporary challenges, linking professional skills development to where these skills are most needed.

When I spoke at the 2019 Planning Convention, I highlighted lessons I’d learnt from working with local communities on neighbourhood planning: building trust, recognising that positive action comes from genuine collaboration.

It’s not a question of whether young planners can keep up with an ever-changing policy environment, it’s whether the policy environment can keep pace with the scale of change we need to achieve net-zero and empower young planners to play a central role in it.

Abbie Miladinovic is a young planner and a senior planner, policy and plans, at Leeds City Council

Image Credit | iStock


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