The Young Planner of the Year award, sponsored by the Planning Advisory Service, is intended to acclaim the brightest members of the profession below the age of 35.
The six candidates profiled below have been selected for their achievements in careers across the public and private sectors. All promise even more for the future. The winner receives an expenses-paid trip to the American Planning Association National Planning Conference next spring.
Rachel Bland joined the Lake District National Park Authority as a community development planner in early 2004. She leads on housing policy development, works with groups preparing parish plans, facilitates a key link between housing providers and planning officers and acts as planning adviser to the Cumbria Rural Housing Trust.
Bland read urban studies and planning at the University of Sheffield, including a year studying in the USA. She then worked as a planning assistant at Charnwood Borough Council, helping to progress its local plan. She is also involved in the US-based Planner's Network, gave evidence to the RTPI's education commission and advises its development planning panel.
"The profession is entering an exciting time when planners are given the opportunity to get engaged in some real delivery. Planners can embrace this proactive, creative approach, build better links with other professionals and challenge misconceptions about planning," says Bland.
Helen Brookes-Martin rejoined Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council as planning regulation and online services manager last year. The post requires a high level of planning knowledge but is primarily managerial, involving supervision and mentoring, and focuses on performance and process. She is also project manager for the delivery of online planning services.
Brookes-Martin graduated in geography before taking a masters in civic design at the University of Liverpool. She began her career at Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council in 1996 and went on to work in Dudley's development control team, Bromsgrove District Council and Cannock Chase District Council.
Her key achievement in her current post has been a plan to improve the authority's performance, combined with process reviews to work smarter as well as faster. "Planning is the key profession to deliver the government's spatial agenda and spatial planning is at last being positively promoted again," she believes.
Craige Burden is an assistant architect-planner at Oxfordshire-based practice West Waddy: ADP. Since joining the firm in 2003, he has been involved with work at all levels, from structure plan and local plan inquiries to complex planning applications for residential developments.
Burden qualified in planning and architecture at the University of the West of England (UWE), where he set up and chaired the Architecture and Planning Society (Archaos) and completed a 16-month placement at TAG Farnborough Airport Ltd. He served as a student representative on the RTPI Council during the New Vision review and was young planner representative on the board of trustees from 2002.
At West Waddy he is now managing the construction stage of projects that he designed and facilitated through planning. "I would encourage all young professionals to create stronger working relationships and help to make others realise the importance of planning," he says.
Sophie Howitt was recently promoted to senior urban renaissance manager at regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, where she is responsible for delivering a five-year investment programme worth £30 million through regional partners in the Humber region.
Howitt graduated in geography and studied planning at Leeds Metropolitan University while working in development control at Leeds and Bradford City Councils. She joined Yorkshire Forward as sustainable development manager in 2001. Her current post involves development frameworks, securing project funding and advising on best practice.
Howitt has been a planning aid volunteer and RTPI branch executive member since 1999. She advocates renaissance "based on the engagement of the community in decision-making about the future of its town, striving for a holistic approach to place-making".
James Kirkwood joined AWG Property Ltd in Glasgow as development manager in December 2004. His role requires him to identify development opportunities, promote projects through the planning process and co-ordinate professional teams in bringing them to fruition.
Kirkwood studied environmental planning at the University of Strathclyde.
He began his career as a land buyer with CALA Homes (Scotland) Ltd in 2000, later moving on to Westpoint Homes and Dawn Homes Ltd as land manager. He has built up expertise in project management.
Kirkwood was instrumental in setting up the Scottish Young Planners Group.
"Ours is a profession that can go forward, does not have to remain stagnant, can absorb change and establish its rightful place at the pinnacle of development and in the driving seat of delivery," he maintains.
Anton Lang set up set sole trader consultancy Anton Lang Planning Services in July 2004. It has since built up a varied business base including domestic and commercial clients, developers and local authorities.
Lang studied town planning at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and has passed the common professional examination in law and a barrister's vocational course. His career has included spells as a graduate planner at the London Docklands Development Corporation, research at the Eurogramme consultancy in Luxembourg and project work at WS Atkins.
He joined Easington District Council in 1999 and played a key role in establishing the authority as a top three development control planning performer. "I strive to endorse the profession by defending it from its many critics and promoting planning as a worthwhile activity," says Lang.
- Full profiles of the candidates can be viewed via www.rtpi.org.uk/about-the-rtpi/awards/youngplanner.
Each chartered member, associate or student member of the RTPI has one vote. You will need to enter your membership number, which appears on the address label for your copy of Planning, to register your vote. The poll closes at 5pm on Tuesday, 20 December.
You are recommended to vote online via the RTPI website. Voting instructions can be viewed via www.rtpi.org.uk/about-the-rtpi/awards/youngplanner.
Alternatively, complete this form and either fax it to the RTPI on 020 7929 8199 or post it, to arrive by Tuesday, 20 December, to Young Planner of the Year Award, RTPI, 41 Botolph Lane, London EC3R 8DL.
Tick one box only: - RACHEL BLAND HELEN BROOKES-MARTIN - CRAIGE BURDEN SOPHIE HOWITT - JAMES KIRKWOOD ANTON LANG Your surname: Initials: RTPI membership number: