Planning Matters goes public to help meet lifelong learning needs

Support and information on many contemporary planning issues can be accessed via the internet. Carson Warnes reports.

Earlier this year, at the RTPI Planning Convention, PlanningMatters.co.uk - the online knowledge resource designed to help RTPI members improve their performance in the workplace - was launched to corporate users.

From the end of this month, the website will also be available to individuals.

Aims and objectives

If you missed the convention, let me start by reminding you about the aims and objectives of this venture. Firstly, some background information.

The PlanningMatters.co.uk website has been developed jointly by the RTPI and its partner, the consultancy and publishing house, Echelon.

As a worldwide website, however, PlanningMatters.co.uk provides anyone - not just town planners - who has an interest in the planning system with just-in-time information and support on a broad range of contemporary planning issues. From busy professionals working on planning applications, to local government officers preparing for a planning executive meeting, PlanningMatters.co.uk has something for everyone engaged in sustainable development.

What's on it? Topic areas currently include:

- Commercial and property development.

- Countryside planning.

- Design and the built environment.

- Development control.

- Development management.

- Economic development.

- Environmental planning.

- Environmental protection.

- E-planning.

- Heritage and conservation.

- Housing.

- Integrated transport and land-use planning.

- Minerals.

- Nature conservation.

- Plan-making.

- Planning and society.

- Planning in context.

- Pollution.

- Resources.

- Rural planning.

- Urban regeneration.

- Waste.

The resource will, however, grow over time to reflect the latest developments in the planning system, so expect to see more topics added on a regular basis.

Bite-sized learning

The materials are typically "bite-sized", that is no more than 2,000 words, and can be printed online as HTML or PDF files. As they are text-based, they are quick to download and can be read at your own pace - vital to comprehension and retention.

Being bite-sized also means that the materials provide you with an overview of the subject. But look out for the references and further reading, books, journals, magazines, websites and online databases.

Validated learning

Each one of the planning-related knowledge-builders and action-lists, authored and reviewed by leading subject matter experts and monitored by an RTPI-appointed editorial board, is accompanied by an optional interactive self-assessment questionnaire.

Typically, there are a dozen or so multiple-choice questions with immediate feedback on your answers.

You have the option of completing the questionnaire as soon as you have read the information or alternatively you can skip it and receive an e-mail two days later containing a hyperlink back to the questionnaire.

This allows you to take the test at a time and place of choice - in case you are wondering, the score is not recorded.

Soft skills

Of added value to users will be the access to the 200 bite-sized business and management related performance solutions, taken from Echelon's learningmatters.com website. Again, the idea is that you will download supporting materials at the time when you need them the most.

For example, you can download a diagnostic activity to assess your leadership potential as soon as you learn of your promotion. The content available on this part of the website covers career planning, financial skills, goal setting, interviewing skills, knowledge management, leadership, mentoring, negotiation skills, presentation skills and project management. These augment many of the soft skills identified in the Egan review and set the resource apart from other knowledge-based initiatives.

CPD online

Additional benefits include the ability to plan and evidence CPD through the website's online CPD log. Users get an easy-to-administer interface for keeping their CPD records up to date. Materials downloaded from the website are automatically recorded in the CPD log while additional CPD activities can be added separately.

Feedback evaluations

Users of the resource will also be able to submit their feedback via the online evaluations. This feedback will form an important part of future editorial board meetings and go a long way toward ensuring that PlanningMatters.co.uk is kept up to date and meets the needs of its users.

What does it cost?

Materials can be purchased by credit card - prices range from just £2 - or by opening an account. Prices for an account start at £100. An account of £300 entitles users to £330 worth of downloads and £500 gets £600 worth of downloads. Account holders will be issued with a secure log-on and password.

To be notified when PlanningMatters.co.uk goes live and to open an account, contact Carson Warnes using the details below.

If you are interested in authoring or reviewing materials for this resource, and are suitably qualified and experienced, please e-mail Stephen Wellings at stephen@planningmatters.co.uk.

- Carson Warnes is the PlanningMatters.co.uk project manager (tel) 020 8568 1500; (e-mail) carson@planningmatters.co.uk.


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