As we approach the end of the year I thought that it would be a good idea to be the first to get an article on the RTPI News pages that gives an overview of our recent achievements and, of course, looks to the future.
The network was formed in 1997 and its purpose was to reflect the interests and concerns of self-employed planning consultants through providing a forum where members can discuss relevant issues and share good practice.
The network remains true to this purpose, but over the years we have worked with the RTPI to gain greater influence within its governance and in return the network has received greater administrative support from the RTPI.
An example of this successful partnership between consultant members and the RTPI is the improved guidance offered by the institute to its members who are considering starting off in private practice. Members now have at their disposal an RTPI that is able to offer useful advice and information, a good practice guide entitled Starting Off in Private Practice and, of course, a support network of fellow consultants. We have a page on the RTPI website where much of this information can be accessed online - www.rtpi.org.uk/resources/panels/sole/index.html.
The sole practitioners network has always held regular meetings at the RTPI in London. Although the network is grateful to the RTPI for the free use of its meeting rooms, we are conscious that meetings can be too focused in the South East. We have therefore held meetings in Gloucester and Birmingham and we hope to visit other regions in the UK over the next 12 months.
The RTPI has also provided an e-mail discussion forum for self-employed consultants. This has also attracted members who work in small practices.
Of course the benefits are the same - the ability to discuss shared interests in an informal way replacing the professional workplace support that most members enjoy when employed by a local planning authority (LPA) or consultancy.
Anything and everything is up for discussion and comment - the possible reasons for the delays in appeals, "interesting" LPA practices that help them meet targets and where you can buy cheap professional indemnity insurance.
So, what are the immediate plans for the network? The next meeting will be at the RTPI in London on Wednesday 8 December, 2pm to 5pm, and will feature a presentation on ecological impact assessments by environmental consultancy Thomson Ecology (www.thomsonecology.com).
We are also hoping to hold the first one-day conference tailored for the self-employed consultant in early 2005. Further details will be announced in due course.
If you would like further information on starting off in private practice and the sole practitioners network, or if you are interested in attending the meeting on 8 December, then please contact Chris Sheridan at the RTPI (tel) 020 7929 9483 (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org.