President investigates how planners make a difference

Jim Claydon visits professionals around the country to find out how they are improving our quality of life.

Planners make a difference to people's lives. The dedication of professionals around the country has been one of the features of my trips to the regions and nations. In recent weeks I have visited planners in Ireland, North Cornwall, Barrow-in-Furness, Tyneside and Sunderland. In these very different places, I have been hugely impressed by the dedication of planners to achieving improvements for their local communities.

One such planner was my friend Peter Rosenfeld, an RTPI member for 55 years. He died in August aged 96, still a retired member. He worked in Staffordshire for almost all of his career and retained a commitment to planning and a pride in his profession throughout his life.

A former colleague, Staffordshire county planning officer Mary Riley, describes him as a man of vision and common sense with a strong sense of justice. "Heroic" is the word she uses to epitomise the man who came into planning as a trained engineer in the early 1950s.

Rosenfeld became responsible for development control across the county, notably for the Black Country and north Staffordshire at the start of his career. As a specialist in this field, his priorities were preserving woodland, assessing social impacts and avoiding developments on flood plains.

We teamed up to carry out training courses for parish councillors in Devon in the 1970s. This was one of my earliest experiences of community engagement. Hundreds of councillors attended day-long courses across the county. As the experienced practitioner, Rosenfeld was a great foil for my youthful idealism.

Town planning has benefited from the commitment and integrity of Rosenfeld and his generation of pioneering practitioners. They established the profession and embedded its values in practice. Their legacy is the mature body of town planners that the RTPI represents today.

I also made a visit to the young planners' conference in Glasgow. Enthusiastic and committed, the young planners' network is a great source of optimism. Its successful conference was complemented by enthusiastic socialising.

In Newcastle, younger members are making a terrific contribution to Planning Aid North and its work with schoolchildren in the Planning Education for Young People initiative. Future generations must be nurtured from an early age as student planners to develop a notable generation of professionals.

Jim Claydon is RTPI president.

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