‘Hug a planner day’ – anyone?
The Royal Town Planning Institute has, understandably, come out recently with a robust defence of the planning system in light of what many planners see as an all out attack on the principles that underlay what they see as their raison d’etre. There’s an interesting article from Rowan Moore in the Guardian that suggests rather than turning our back on the planning system we should start a ‘hug a planner’ day instead.
We are currently working with a planning system that has undergone continual tinkering ever since Michael Heseltine took a swipe at planners in 1979. Heseltine chose the same ‘jobs in filing cabinets’ rhetoric in 2012 when asked to review the UK’s competitiveness.
It seems planners are an easy political target as most people have experience of them at some point in their lives and it is the inevitable nature of what planners do that they can’t please all the people all the time!
In the Guardian Moore argues that we should actually place greater power in the hands of Council planners as they are our best bet in delivering the housing sites we need to address the crisis faced here in the UK. Rather than reacting to plans, they could focus on removing obstacles, assembling pieces of land and placing greater certainty in the development process. The development industry does not agree. Perhaps, initiatives such as Planning Freedoms may instead be the solution to providing the development boost that the economy apparently craves.
Most planners seem to feel that they are unable to provide the benefits through the planning system that they expected when they set out on their planning careers. The RTPI President Phil Williams said ‘We are hearing from our members a clear sense that deep budget cuts and constant changes have hindered their ability to operate strategically and perform a leadership role…‘
The RTPI calls for a greater role for Council planners in land supply, partnerships with the private sector, infrastructure provision, and, inevitably, better resourced planning departments.
From experience, there are a great number of highly skilled, committed, public sector planners who have the knowledge, drive and determination to make a difference to both our push for more homes and the need to protect our built and natural environment. There are also, sadly, just as many who do not.