Expansion of interest groups offers members more chances to engage

RTPI networks are at the centre of a flurry of activity as a host of smaller interest groups are taking shape to influence thinking across a range of topics and you can play a part in their development, says Trish Cookson.

You may already know about the 15 RTPI networks, with more than 6,000 members between them, and that another is to be launched next month for planning administrators.

Less well known are the smaller interest groups that now offer even more opportunities for members to engage. Some are time-limited and task-specific while others are on-going developmental groups. Some are engaged in policy issues, perhaps leading on an institute response to a government consultation or developing a policy position. They all reflect the priorities of the network and its members.

The development planning network has a planning delivery and strategic policy group that is sharing information, experience and good practice and a spatial plans and transport planning group that is helping to integrate the two subjects more closely.

The environmental planning and protection network's healthy communities group has already carried out ground-breaking work in the integration of spatial planning and health. Its environmental assessment group is exploring the use of specific tools in this field, while a minerals and waste group run with the development planning network provides the RTPI's voice in national decision-making.

The international development network has four interest groups on small islands, China, Ethiopia and India. Their purpose is to share information, experience and good practice on planning in these areas, including sustainable solutions transferable to other nation states.

The rural planning network's policy sub-group seeks to influence UK and EU policy for rural areas and their local communities and raise awareness of planning issues.

The urban design network is particularly active. A quality and density group is exploring issues around meeting housing supply targets while maintaining design quality. An urban design education group is lobbying for integration as a core subject while a creating safer places group, run with the development management network, is exploring how planning and building regulations can help to reduce crime. A conservation group will meet soon.

The young planners' network has a task group that delivered the hugely successful conference in Brighton earlier this month, attracting more than 200 delegates, and another will soon be set up to deliver next year's conference.

Over the next few weeks, the environmental planning and protection network will set up several groups. Topics will include biodiversity, climate change, energy, environmental assessment tools, health, waste and natural resource management and water. If these do not cover all your environmental planning interests, let us know.

Some interest groups have already made their mark. The work of the spatial plans and transport planning group helped us gain a place in the finals of the Academy for Sustainable Communities' Creating the Future awards under the category "bringing people together". We are helping to raise the profile of transport planning among spatial planners and spatial planning among transport planners, acknowledging different skill sets and seeking effective integration to deliver sustainable communities, settlements and places.

The group held a successful conference in Birmingham last year and a dedicated web page provides practitioners with a wealth of resources. It is now focusing its work on PPS12 and barriers to integration. If you are interested in the integration of spatial planning and transport planning to find sustainable solutions, please join us.

The healthy communities group wrote the institute's adopted policy statement of spatial planning and health and is currently producing a health good practice note for the benefit of all RTPI members. So if you are interested in any aspect of planning and health, the group would welcome your input.

Trish Cookson is RTPI networks and associations developer. The network interest groups tend to meet virtually, although occasionally face-to-face, and are all open to any member of the network that hosts them. Membership is free. To find out more or to join a network, please visit the website at www.rtpi.org.uk or email Trish Cookson at networks@rtpi.org.uk.


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