Future of profession discuss growth

Last month's Young Planners' Conference focused on reforms to the sector, Joanne Hooper reports.

When Young Planners West Midlands submitted its bid to host the Young Planners' Conference in Birmingham, we knew it would be tough to run. But we need not have worried as we were overwhelmed by support when our bid succeeded.

Our key aim for the conference was to equip delegates with the knowledge and tools to grapple with a growing population and to work with and challenge the government's emerging planning reforms.

Following a drinks evening hosted by DLA Piper, the conference kicked off the next day at Birmingham Council House with presentations on "setting the scene for growth" by Royal Town Planning Institute president Richard Summers and Hugh Ellis from the Town and Country Planning Association.

Steve Quartermain of the Department for Communities and Local Government and Hector Pearson from National Grid then talked about "creating the conditions for growth", referring to putting together a National Planning Policy Framework to facilitate growth and ensuring that infrastructure exists to cater for growing energy needs.

After lunch, workshops considered different types of expansion and financial planning tools. Afternoon presentations on "opportunities for growth" allowed delegates to learn about Birmingham's key development plans and High Speed 2.

Sarah Foster, the 2010 Young Planner of the Year, gave an inspirational talk about promoting planning, concluding that we have a chance to become smarter about the ways we undertake planning.

The highlight of the conference was the formal dinner at the Burlington Hotel, attended by 150 young planners. Councillor Timothy Huxtable welcomed guests and, after dinner, Ian Dove QC entertained with stories from his early law career.

The RTPI's Trudi Elliott introduced the second day on "challenges to growth", with presentations from speakers including Andrew Whitaker of the Home Builders Federation and Sue Manns from Pegasus. Afternoon study tours provided an opportunity to visit Birmingham, with many glad of the fresh air after the night before!

The conference left many delegates with a sense of their responsibility to be critical when responding to questions on planning for growth, and to protect and value the ethics on which the planning movement was founded. Young planners are the future of the profession and the delivery of growth is in our hands.

The conference organising committee comprised chair Laura Smith of GVA, Joanne Hooper and Claudia Clemente from Drivers Jonas Deloitte, Maria Dunn of Wyre Forest District Council and Ben Simm of Coventry City Council. Thanks to the sponsors: Drivers Jonas Deloitte, No5 Chambers, Savills, DLA Piper, Turley Associates, JMP, Judd Farris, National Grid and RTPI West Midlands.

Joanne Hooper is a senior planner at Drivers Jonas Deloitte. Visit www.rtpi.org.uk/item/1330 for articles, photographs and further information from the conference.


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