It’s 2024, take the time to ‘hug’ a planner this year

09 Jan 24

At Iceni we are very supportive of the recently launched campaign by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) called “It Takes Planners and You”.

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In my experience of the planning and development world, the town planner, or local planning authority are all too often portrayed as the ‘blockage’ in the system. Complaints include preventing development from coming forward, or conversely allowing too much development in the wrong locations!

My perspective includes some highly informative early years in my career spent in local government ahead of the last 2+ decades spent in planning consultancy, acting for a range of clients.

Inevitably there will always be a range of skills, experience and mindsets amongst the thousands of town planners who work across the UK. Some are more collaborative in their approach than others, some are more technically minded, whilst others more visionary.

Planners clearly have a difficult role to perform, often having to balance competing demands created by planning policies, commercial realities, and political pressures – but they also have the immense ability to create beneficial outcomes for communities and society as a whole.

All too often planners are in the crosshairs of the media, local communities, politicians, and developers. Sadly, this can result in unpleasant behaviours towards planners, sometimes evidenced in the form of harassment, which can impact on morale, and in turn, the ability to maintain high standards. With challenging financial conditions in local government, and difficulties in recruitment, training and retention, the situation is becoming beyond difficult in some local authority areas.

At Iceni we are very supportive of the recently launched campaign by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) called “It Takes Planners and You”. The campaign aims to highlight the pivotal role that planners play in creating liveable, healthy communities, I’d urge you to spend some time reflecting on the role of planners, and reading some of their stories: https://www.planningyourworld.org.uk/it-takes-planners-and-you/. Being better informed should help us all work better across the professional teams that we encounter on projects.

Finally, 2024 is going to be a deeply political year, with party lines being drawn on many issues – local planning, and particularly new housing development, will be key differentiators between the main parties. I would urge all to ensure that town planners are recognised and portrayed in a fair and honest way, and that they are paid the due respect that they deserve – maybe a word of encouragement; an email saying thanks for a report well-written; or a (metaphorical) hug would not go amiss either. In my experience, projects where developers, stakeholders and planners collaborate, and have respect for each other’s professional roles, deliver better outcomes and results for all.

Andrew Gale Chief Operating Officer,Planning