RTPI president gives support to volunteers and students

Planning Aid was in the spotlight during a visit from Ann Skippers, write Kevin Lillie and Jacqui Baines.

RTPI president Ann Skippers visited the Planning Aid service in Newcastle and Yorkshire last month. One of the top priorities of her presidential year is to promote young people's involvement with planning and the visit was made to further this goal.

Skippers started in the North East, where she met many volunteers and saw the variety of work that is being done by the service. Along with RTPI director of professional services Sue Percy, the RTPI director responsible for Planning Aid, Skippers was introduced to Planning Aid North (PAN)'s planning and young people programme.

They looked at the positive outputs from core and externally funded projects. The group participated in an evening volunteer event on planning for place, which shared experiences on how the service has helped empower communities and supported place-shaping.

The following day the president was taken on a tour of three Tyneside schools to see the work that PAN has been doing with young people. At Westgate Hill Primary School, the party learnt about community support for the city's primary school rebuilding programme.

At Carville Primary School in Wallsend, the president and director took part in the launch of the Past, Present and Future project. This will allow the community to consider how planning has affected the evolution of the town and how it will shape the future.

The final visit was to Shiremoor Primary School, where PAN launched its programme back in 2004. The party joined in discussions with pupils and teachers about their experiences and the opportunities in planning as a career.

"Young people are the planners of the future. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the students about planning," said Skippers. "It can be a catalyst for the whole community to get involved in their local area. Our work in schools is vital in raising aspirations and spreading the word about the value of planning."

Skippers also visited Yorkshire Planning Aid (YPA) and tested her skills at a volunteer training event on designing a sustainable town. Community planner Mike Dando gave a presentation about YPA's approach to working with children and young people.

Former volunteer Debbie Holland gave an overview of techniques she developed for working with young people and outlined case studies of three school events where activities had been successful.

- Kevin Lillie is manager of PAN. Jacqui Baines is manager of YPA.

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