Love it when planning comes together

September 13, 2012

The coalition government's latest wave of planning reforms has been accompanied by a sentiment, cleared by No 10, to "get the planners off our backs". Such rhetoric threatens to cause potential damage to planning schools, planning students, the planning profession and planning's contribution to the economy.

Planners secure major infrastructure projects, deliver housing in the right locations, assist in delivering economic growth and job creation, and protect the best features of town and country for future generations to enjoy.

The Royal Town Planning Institute accredits planning schools based in universities worldwide. It provides quality assurance and high professional standards for planners who go on to work in a variety of roles. This work often delivers nationally and globally significant projects in local settings, helps to implement the plans and policies of governments and developers, and encourages the involvement of the public.

The English planning schools are bringing in significant amounts of income for our economy through the training of international students and the development of international research. There are around 4,000 students learning in accredited planning schools each year, many of whom hail from overseas.

For England alone, this produces fee income of some £15 million a year to the higher education sector.

The contribution of the planning schools in England and across the UK are vital in ensuring that world leaders and other politicians have the essential intelligence, advice and ideas to see that economic development is achieved, that places are shaped creatively and imaginatively, and that the people's quality of life is improved.

This involves learning about and reconciling the dynamics of land and property, design excellence and the integration of new development to ensure that economic, social and environmental benefits are realised.

The unique skills of the planner are where a range of seemingly competing issues are considered simultaneously, strategically and synoptically at different scales. These activities are valuable to the British economy and vital to growth but are often unrecognised by politicians.

We urge that the crucial role of planning and planning education is acknowledged and valued rather than being subject to persistent political scapegoating and the damage this can cause.

Gavin Parker, Director, professional standards, Royal Town Planning Institute, London

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