Young voices aim to heal divisions

A city tour showed the importance of involving the public in planning, write Robert Hobbs and James Long.

The centre of Brighton has grown dramatically over the centuries. Young planners at this year's national conference were able to admire examples of exquisite Georgian architecture as two representatives from Brighton and Hove City Council planning department showed them around the Lanes area en route to the Jubilee Library.

In contrast to the historic Lanes, the library is a fine example of modern architecture with unfaltering attention to detail. The building has been designed to provide an airy open feel through the use of glass and natural daylight. A well-constructed mezzanine floor also provides an interesting alternative to usual library design.

The tour concluded with a walk via the quirky shopping streets of the North Laine area. Walking around the city gave delegates time to reflect on the theme of the conference - bridging the great divide.

The theme goes to the heart of what the young planners' network is about. Not only is the conference a fantastic way of building up a good contact base, socialising and contributing to continuing professional development, it also gives young planners a chance to share experiences and find out the pressures that others are facing.

Too often there is a divide between professionals themselves, partly due to a lack of awareness of the pressures our counterparts face. The network offers an opportunity to create a better understanding of our profession that in turn could help make our jobs a little easier. It also enables planners to unite against the challenges presented in their working life. It allows us to have a voice and this is extremely important, given that young planners come into the profession with fresh eyes and thinking.

At the conference, a running theme was to bridge the divide between professionals and the public to integrate them into the planning system. However, we first need to set common goals. In part, we need to remind ourselves why we joined the profession, as Young Planner of the Year Susannah Guest correctly pointed out.

There will always be conflict in planning, but if we work towards an overall objective we can communicate more effectively with the public and involve them in the process. These objectives are established at events such as the national conference and other regional young planner events around the country. Long may they continue.

Robert Hobbs is a senior policy planner at Ipswich Borough Council and the young planners steering group representative for the East of England. James Long is a planner at Vail Williams Property Consultancy and contributed to the organisation and sponsorship of the conference.

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