We’ve all seen the headlines about a ‘broken housing market’ or the need for a ‘new industrial strategy’ or ‘natural disaster displaces millions’. We know a range of issues were highlighted during the referendum on membership of the European Union relating to migration and population growth, unaffordable housing, the pressure on health and educational services and the need for economic growth. How do we develop solutions that begin to address these issues? How do we balance the competing needs and priorities across the country? The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) thinks planning has a really special and unique role to play in solving some of these problems. Planners can play a central role in delivering the kind of world we all want to live in – an inclusive, economically successful and resilient society with jobs, homes and infrastructure.
Our upcoming Planning Convention will explore the creative solutions available to some of the most pressing problems facing us – below are just three examples:
Homes in places where people want to live
The Institute is currently calling on government to help deliver one million new homes and, regardless of the number, we all agree we need more homes and fast. It’s a massive task we need to deliver on to achieve a more inclusive society – everyone needs and deserves a home to call their own. Planners have a key role in housing delivery, whether that’s through assessing planning applications and working with developers to achieve the best possible outcome on a site through to working directly for housing companies owned by local authorities. Some local authorities are even using planning enforcement to bring run-down, abandoned homes back into use.
But it’s not just about the number. It’s also about where home are located. Homes need to be located close to services, schools and hospitals and the appropriate transport infrastructure to get people from A to B. Planners also try to factor in how well located housing is to jobs which is crucial if we are going to grow the economy. To deliver a million more homes we need more planners and more resources to planning departments. We are campaigning for this too.
A thriving night-time economy
Across the UK the night-time economy is worth £66 billion and supports 1.3 million jobs. Good planning helps to underpin places where people want to eat, drink, play and enjoy at night. Planners have the skills to balance the need for places to be safe, inclusive and well designed with a range of amenities and things to do. For example, planners have been instrumental in the regeneration of the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast which is now home to new bars, restaurants and places for live music. While in London, Amy Lamé has been appointed the city’s first ‘Night Czar’ to help make London a successful 24 hour city. Governments are recognising that you need to make sure cities can work around the clock and planning is at the forefront of making sure it happens.
Rebuilding after natural disasters
It’s not just at the local or national scale planners make a difference – humanitarian crises from earthquakes, floods and droughts plus conflict situations affect millions globally every day. Last year the RTPI co-founded a humanitarian crises advisory group called the UK Built Environment Advisory Group for Humanitarian Action to help planners prepare and respond to a range of global crises. It brings together experts from across the built environment to help better prepare and recover from disasters. As growing populations and climate change put increasing pressure on our cities, towns and rural communities, it is all the more important that expertise and training is shared to help communities become more resilient against human-made and natural crises.
The challenges before us can sound daunting and there’s a lot of work to be done if we want a truly strong and inclusive future. While we know planning has a central role to play in delivery, it’s also about working with other professionals in health, government, education, academia, science and tech to ensure a joined up approach. Our Planning Convention brings together a wide range of experts and their insight will be invaluable to anyone interested in tackling inequality, addressing the housing crisis and being more sustainable. You don’t need to be a professional planner to join us in London on 21 June – tickets are still available.