Event highlights sustainable aims

Green topics as varied as a carbon-neutral city and the Merton rule were discussed at the young planners' conference, reports Graham Holmes.

The recent young planners' conference tackled the theme of "Changing Climate - Changing Planning". It was held at the impressive Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and it was positive to see how many young planners from far afield made the effort to attend the event.

The conference began with a talk by RTPI immediate past president Clive Harridge on environmental equity and the principle of sustainable development, which set the tone for discussion. The next debate, led by Sustainable Development Commission vice-chairwoman Rebecca Willis, focused directly on how planners can take an active role in tackling climate change.

This was followed with a talk by London Borough of Merton principal environment officer Adrian Hewitt on the introduction of its eponymous rule. Merton pioneered the planning policy that requires the use of renewable energy on-site to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the built environment.

Following the publication of PPS22 on renewable energy, the borough was the first to formalise the government's renewable energy targets in its unitary development plan. It aimed for the use of on-site renewable energy to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions for all major developments in the borough by ten per cent. Hewitt's talk highlighted how proactive local authorities can deal with climate change.

The afternoon session included a presentation by Arup urban designer Braulio Morera on proposals to build a carbon-neutral city in China on an island off Shanghai called Dongtan. Located at the mouth of the River Yangtze, the site will generate all its energy from renewable sources, including wind farms in central places and a public transport system that features solar-powered water taxis. This talk pointed out how different nations are dealing with the threat of climate change.

Friday's social event was held at the stunning Glasgow City Chambers building and was hosted by councillor Catherine McMaster This was followed by a visit to Metropolis bar for a few more drinks, after which everyone went home for some well-earned rest.

The second day of the conference started with a speech by RTPI chief policy adviser Kelvin Macdonald. This was followed by five talks that outlined who should be making a difference in the world of planning with regard to climate change.

These presentations set out the differing views held by the various actors of the planning industry. DTZ senior consultant Cat Quigley argued at the end of her presentation that everyone, not just planners, should be making a difference. Planners can all make an impact by providing policies and incentives such as the Merton rule, which will achieve the key goal of working towards sustainable developments.

Site visits explored issues such as renewable energy, high-quality architecture and local regeneration schemes. They included a trip to Blacklaw wind farm, walking tours around the East End and city centre and a trip to Glasgow School of Art.

These were followed by the evening social event at the concert hall, which consisted of a conference dinner followed by the Black Rose Ceilidh Band. Prior to the dinner, RTPI president Jim Claydon gave a short speech about young planners and their role in the institute. Following this, delegates enjoyed the band and then moved on to the final bar where most stayed until the early hours.

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