Young contenders

Your votes are needed to help decide who takes the title of RTPI Young Planner of the Year for 2011, Bryan Johnston writes.

The ballot is now open for the RTPI Young Planner of the Year 2011. The winner, to be announced at the Royal Town Planning Institute Planning Awards presentation in February, will win trips to next year's American Planning Association national conference in Los Angeles and Planning Summer School in Liverpool.

James Carpenter

James Carpenter joined North West Leicestershire District Council in August as principal planning and customer liaison officer, giving him responsibility for three development control area teams and oversight of customer relations. In the past seven years, he has worked with Wycombe District Council, consultancies Frampton Planning and Bidwells, regeneration body English Partnerships and Opun, the architecture centre for the East Midlands.

As RTPI East Midlands region chair, Carpenter has sought to involve members more actively and to build links with other professional institutes and councils. He is also a regular seminar presenter and an assessment of professional competence (APC) assessor. "I want to help demonstrate that a proactive approach and a commitment to continuing professional development is a robust pathway for those embarking on a planning career," he says.

Simon Coop

Simon Coop joined consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners in 2002 and is now an associate director at its Cardiff office, specialising in housing and employment. He has led the development of the firm's Headroom technique for predicting future housing requirements and has put together responses to government planning reforms, as well as promoting development schemes and strategies.

Coop has mentored five colleagues though the RTPI's APC process. He is also a regular lecturer, seminar presenter and contributor to professional journals. "If selected, I would continue to develop tools and techniques that equip planners to respond to emerging issues, highlight how the profession can promote positive change and enhance links with universities," he says.

Neil Hook

Neil Hook began his career at Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council in 2000 and has secured development control, policy and regeneration experience at Salford City Council and the London Borough of Enfield, where he is principal planning and regeneration officer. He is the lead officer on the Meridian Water mixed-use project and has worked on neighbourhood plans, rail infrastructure improvements and a decentralised energy network proposal.

Hook is involved in national debates on housing and retail and a pan-European project to design a software system for planning policy development. "I would approach planning reform from both directions, working alongside the RTPI president to develop engagement with government while working with communities to develop their engagement with us," he says.

Monica Lennon

Monica Lennon gained experience in technical and project management skills and developed her insight into the purpose of planning while at South Lanarkshire Council, consultancy Atkins and housebuilder Keir Homes, before launching her own consultancy, MLA Planning and Development, in 2008. She has just become an associate planner at consultants Knight Frank in Glasgow.

Lennon chairs the Lanarkshire Business Group and a community group, mentors RTPI licentiates and writes a planning column for local newspapers. She has advised the Scottish government on improving planners' image. As Young Planner of the year, she says: "I would maximise the opportunity to speak up for planning in the media and to our governments and educators, to the benefit of all planners."

Nikola Miller

Nikola Miller recently took up a post as a planning consultant at Smiths Gore in Edinburgh after a short spell at Miller Developments. In her previous job as a consultant at GVA Grimley, a key role was to set up community engagement programmes on large-scale proposals in Scotland. This led to a secondment with Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS), where she developed and delivered training programmes to help local communities get involved.

Miller remains a PAS volunteer, mentors planning students and leads professional development activities for her RTPI chapter and the Scottish Young Planners Network. "We should promote planning as a positive process for change and a mechanism to emerge from recession through viable developments and sustainable economic growth," she says.

Julia Riddle

Julia Riddle has risen from assistant planner to associate director at consultancy DTZ over the past eight years, working mainly on a range of education, commercial, leisure, residential and retail schemes in London and the South East. She manages multidisciplinary project teams to provide a coordinated approach to challenging planning issues.

Riddle is a member of the RTPI general assembly and senior vice-chair of the RTPI London region. She is an APC mentor and assessor and works with universities on events to promote planning as a career. "I will positively promote the planning profession and the opportunities it has to offer. I will also continue to work to increase public understanding of the planning system," she promises.

Candidates' profiles are at

How to vote

The ballot will decide which candidates will be invited to make a presentation to the award judges, after which the winner will be selected. Each chartered, associate, technical, legal, licentiate and student member of the RTPI has one vote

You can register your vote:

- Online at You must enter your RTPI membership number to register your vote

- By letter to Kate Webster, RTPI, 41 Botolph Lane, London EC3R 8DL, indicating your preferred candidate, your surname and initials, and your RTPI membership number

The poll closes at 5pm on Monday 19 December.

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