Young planners - the future of our institute

The institute wants to help all of its members, which is why it is essential that young planners speak out, maintains Craige Burden.

In February 2002 the Manifesto for Change was launched by the RTPI.

This document outlined the future direction of the institute and I am pleased to say that before it became incorporated in the institute's royal charter some changes were made. Most notably, for myself, at section three, Trustees.

The proposal outlined that 12 members would be the trustees for the institute who would have overall control of the direction of the RTPI and would guide it towards its future, with the general assembly providing a method for creating accountability of these dozen members.

At the time of that proposal, the 12 people who would have taken up these positions would have all been aged over 50. In the debate that followed the publication of the New Vision, the group of young planner representatives on the council convinced other members that this would be wrong and that under the revised governance there should be a position for a young planner on the board of trustees. In January 2004, the first young planner took their seat on the board of trustees in a sadly uncontested election.

Nine months into my two-year term, I would like to review my attempts to help young planners engage with the institute. Unfortunately, I cannot create a long list of things that I have changed, or even had an influence on - at least, not yet. However, I see the role as one of continuing long-term development.

Despite this, I have been privy to some interesting and stimulating discussions about the direction of the institute and some interesting debates have occurred. One such discussion that always springs to mind is that surrounding membership fees, often a very contentious issue for members. In the discussion, I queried the level of membership fees for student planners.

The response from the RTPI staff was that the institute makes a loss on every student member, on the cost of distributing information and Planning alone. So subscriptions need to be increased, with the institute running its margins so tightly for student members that I could not see any arguments for attempting to keep membership fees at £25 a year. Aware, therefore, of the existing shortfall and tight financial margins surrounding student membership, I agreed to an increase in student membership to £30 a year.

The trustees are examining the institute in a "fitness for purpose" exercise, looking at fresh ways to help run the institute. This is another fantastic opportunity for young planners to have a say in how they feel things could, or perhaps should, be done.

My own ideas for the future direction of the institute include it being more inclusive, with a better public image, and I have many thoughts on how I would like this to happen. However, I welcome ideas or comments from all, particularly the young planners I represent, about how they would like our institute to improve.

- Craige Burden is an assistant architect-planner at West Waddy: ADP in Abingdon (e-mail) craige@craige.fsnet.co.uk.


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