Diana, the editor of the RTPI News pages, is leaving the institute at the end of 2005. It would be convenient to state that the pages you are reading are the last to be edited by her, but in her usual efficient way, Diana has commissioned material to appear after she has left.
Diana joined the RTPI on 1 June 1975 as reviews editor of The Planner, progressing to deputy editor and eventually editor of RTPI News. The world of planning and the world of the RTPI were very different 30 years ago.
Adverts in The Planner that year were seeking planning officers in the Central Lancashire Development Corporation on a starting salary of £3,231, while an opinion piece berated the "retired army, navy and air force commanders" who then staffed the planning inspectorate. But, in many more ways, the issues that were being addressed then are yet to find a full resolution now.
A perspicacious piece, in hindsight, related French housing design to social unrest and the theme of the 1975 RTPI conference at the Holiday Inn, Bristol, was Cities in Crisis. It is also clear that the RTPI was reaching a tipping point that would eventually lead to the new vision.
A cogent article by Harry Gardner entitled Who's Afraid of Planning Aid?
stated: "My limited experience of planning aid has taught me to believe that the social city means more control by consumers over the occupational skills and services of planners."
I must first have met Diana in the early 1980s when I wrote my first article for The Planner - fittingly for my future career, a book review of The Grotton Papers. She has always proved to be a charming, patient but scrupulous editor and working with Diana has proved to be one of the joys of joining the RTPI. When she leaves, the institute will lose an element of style combined with rigour that will be sorely missed.
"Perhaps the scariest part of producing the weekly RTPI News pages is relying on people to get the copy to me on time," Diana once said to me.
"Not that you were the worst," she added. Diana's tact is beyond reproach.
"At one point I acquired the nickname Diana Deadline," she continues.
"I think that was the work of one of the recent past presidents. Institute material to feature in RTPI News has become much more abundant as the networks have become more active and the branches are now running strong events programmes. I remember when I was first faced with producing RTPI News on a weekly basis. I was due to go on holiday and would only have had two days to sort out the first issue. I went to the then secretary-general David Fryer and explained the situation and that he needed to get the department heads together to wrench the information out of them.
He was a great help and we had regular weekly meetings for some time after that.
"Having read law at university," she recalls, "I started my career with Sweet and Maxwell legal publishers and worked on, among other things, the Journal of Planning and Property Law and the Encyclopedia of Planning Law. One day, while reading The Times, a job jumped out at me. I could do that, I thought, but the deadline was close and I ended up delivering the application by hand.
"In those days we worked as a team from Portland Place, when The Planner was produced in-house by the RTPI. However, as the organisation grew we were moved out to a separate office in Kings Cross. It was only when the relationship with Haymarket was established that I moved back into Portland Place."
This will be my last column for Diana. As usual, it is last minute and Diana has sorted everything out. We will certainly miss her around the office.
- Kelvin MacDonald is RTPI director of policy and practice.