He’s one of our own…

15 Feb 19 | Ian Anderson

Should we experience a bad Brexit, or simply (and not unreasonably) witness some of our Irish colleagues deciding to return to their place of birth, we are not only going to experience the loss in numbers, but in leadership and output.

.

Declan Rice has finally announced that he is to commit his international future to England, having previously declared for Ireland. As a West Ham season ticket holder, I can say with confidence that the Republic’s loss is very much England’s gain; he is already regularly the best player on the pitch, could end up playing and captaining Gareth Southgate’s team for years to come, and is supposedly on the radar of Pep Guardiola as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho in the pivotal holding midfield position at Manchester City. The reality is that with only 11 people in a team, a player of the calibre of ‘our Declan’ really can make all the difference – and he’s only just getting going.

The Anglo-Irish conundrum is by no means exclusive to football. I thought it was telling that on the day the national press were reporting on the story, the scribes at Planning Resource’ we’re highlighting Chief Planner Steve Quartermain’s speech at the MHCLG sponsored Better Design for Better Places conference, where he announced that the Government was to commit to researching the skills shortage in the planning profession. This brought me back to thinking about a London Irish Town Planners (LITP) Network conference I chaired last autumn, which Steve spoke at. In a room of 100 plus professionals, the vast majority of whom were Irish, we discussed the skills shortage in London, and England generally. We also learnt from Joe Corr, the present President of the Irish Planning Institute, that a similar shortage exists across the Irish Sea. Now, it wasn’t lost on Joe that England, particularly London, is in no small way responsible for the problems he is witnessing. Instigated by the economic crash of 10 years ago, the UK has stealthily acquired a pool of planning professionals from Eire that it has no divine right to rely on. And that’s why he was in London: the LITP events are the most populated of all of his professional groups, and they are not even working (in the majority of instances) in the Irish market. They are his lost generation, many of whom, now in their 30s and early 40s, hold positions of influence but are still to reach their professional and economic prime.

London, and England generally, doesn’t have a pool of planners to pull back to the motherland. When the economic crash came, our lost generation found other jobs entirely. That is why our skills shortage is considerable more acute than even Ireland’s. Should we experience a bad Brexit, or simply (and not unreasonably) witness some of our Irish colleagues deciding to return to their place of birth, we are not only going to experience the loss in numbers, but in leadership and output.

This also dovetails with a piece of research that the RTPI has commissioned, which seeks to publicise the diminishing significance of Chief Planners within local authorities in England. Whereas in Ireland, where the chief planner tends to still hold an executive position within an administration, in England, the role has typically been parked behind Head of Bins, or School Lunch Coordinator.

Which brings me back to comparisons with our Declan. There won’t be many planning teams of 11 people, or even a squad of 24 or more, that wouldn’t miss one talented, driven, inspirational individual, regardless of their nationality. England may have won this particular battle, but my fear is that if Joe pulls off a particularly good sales pitch to his erstwhile colleagues London and England will be considerably poorer for it.

Ian Anderson Chief Executive
Back to top