Belfast planning society: the year in review

Plansoc has had a good year, professionally and socially. Paul Killeen and Gavan Rafferty describe the events of 2004.

Plansoc is the planning society of the school of environmental planning at Queen's University Belfast, which incorporates and promotes academic knowledge as well as social events among students, staff and the wider planning professionals and organisations. Although Plansoc is a long-established society at Queen's University, it was reborn after several years in the wilderness. This article reflects on the past academic year.

The society's year began with a social event in Vaughan's night club, which tried to set the scene for the forthcoming twelve months. The evening started with a few sociable drinks in the bar with everyone in a relaxed mood blissfully unaware of the mayhem that was to ensue. As the night progressed, the crowds kept coming, much to the surprise of those at Vaughan's, who had to send for replacement staff as well extra supplies of vodka.

Even the lager tap ran dry. Then came the highlight of the night - the sponsored head shaving and leg waxing. Up first was our peerless chairman, Brendan Dunne. He was willing to put his body on the line, as were Gavan, David, and Paddy, to raise money for the society and to entertain the members.

We returned to Vaughan's to celebrate Christmas. Sequels are a difficult commodity to deliver effectively. There is the pressure of not only measuring up to the previous instalment but delivering that little bit extra.

After months of planning and organisation came the showcase event in the social calendar, the Plansoc formal. The venue selected to host the showcase event, the Hilton hotel, was the first sign that this year's event was going to be something special. Following the dinner and numerous drinks, chairman Brendan Dunne said a few words, acknowledging the selfless work of committee members and others for their contributions to the field of planning. As the night grew older, the alcohol began to take effect and the Hilton was reduced to a heaving mass of merry planners revelling in their exclusive surroundings.

Plansoc did strive to challenge the mental capacity of its members by holding a joint conference with the RTPI Northern Irish Branch entitled Devolution in Planning: Who Will Have the Real Power, Planners or Councillors?

A number of diverse guest speakers, representing a broad spectrum of society from councillors to private planners, were invited to address a large congregation of future planners from Queen's University and those who already work in the profession.

After the invited speakers had made their contributions, a number of brave students from Queen's, in the spirit of promoting active participation, held a debate chaired by Bill Morrison. It tackled the question of where power lies in the planning process. When the heated debate was over and the complementary wine had been consumed, we were left to reflect on a successful afternoon.

Brendan Dunne, Gavan Rafferty and their colleagues at the planning society at Queen's had organised a riveting conference that addressed a contentious issue in a professional manner. It would not have been a planning event without celebrating its success with a few drinks in the nearby bars.

On reflection, the year was a success and a great time was had by all members and non-members of the society. We would like to offer our best wishes to the forthcoming Plansoc committee and may the society continue to prosper.

Paul Killeen is a Plansoc member and editor. Gavan Rafferty is a Plansoc member and RTPI Northern Ireland Branch committee member.

- The monthly young planners page is edited by the young planners panel.

A welcome to new students is scheduled to appear in the 27 November issue of Planning.


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