President's Blog July 2019

10 July 2019

A year ago at Stamford, Paul reminded us that good planning is essential for delivering great places. Since then, and to this end, he has been committed to promoting POS’s ideas – through working with the Core Cities Group and through representing POS on the Labour Party Planning Commission. During his term, the society has experienced significant progress – the start of a new north east branch of POS, the launch of a new website and the re-invigoration of NOVUS, for young planners. He has led on our POS Business Plan, providing a solid platform over the next five years for POS to continue as the credible voice of public sector planners and to provide resource and free networking. I would like to extend my thanks to Paul for his time and his energy over the past year and for a superb and thought-provoking conference. It’s going to be a hard act to follow and I am sure that I shall be calling on him for his knowledge and expertise in the year ahead. 

In the coming year, I want to lead POS in defining and shaping the planning of tomorrow. As public sector planners, we are often under-resourced, unseen and sometimes under-appreciated and yet each of us contributes daily to improving the lives of people in our community, whether on grand scale, such as new garden settlements, or in small and largely unnoticed ways, negotiating improvements to extensions. In the coming years, we are going to be facing new and increasingly uncertain challenges, with unprecedented demographic change, smart cities and really a growing awareness of the need to act to preserve our planet. So, I will be focusing this years’ presidency on the future - future leaders, future technology and future planners.

Firstly, visionary leadership, that focuses on place making, will continue to be vital for creating communities and POS will support its members in this area. Many of us in this room already hold positions of responsibility, but looking ahead, some of the challenges faced will of course require different skills and competencies. The RTPI’s research on Chief Planning Officers last year has prompted POS to explore how we can invest in high quality training and provide opportunities to support and upskill current and future leaders, at all levels within our membership. 

Secondly, from the adoption of Artificial Intelligence for validation, to the use of mobile apps for consultations, tech is already improving planning in increasingly innovative ways. Our services will all need to be prepared for the technology of tomorrow and I want POS to have a technologies specialist who can help planners to use cutting edge technologies in our services. We know that emerging tech is also going to affect how we plan. Whether this is how we respond to driverless cars, in terms of parking and road widths. Or how we respond to the impact of big data to more efficiently use space. POS will look at how it can provide the best benefit for our members and develop long-term strategic partnerships, to enable more dissemination and the take-up of digital technologies.

Finally, I will be committed to investing in the future of planning as a profession - in supporting those new to the job, and in inspiring future planners. We already have lots of talented young planners joining our councils. But recently published RTPI research highlights that in the past decade, there has been a relative fall in the numbers of public sector planners. I want young adults to see public sector planning as a profession that is not only worthwhile, but truly dynamic and inspiring with the potential to shape the communities of the future.  The next time you ask a nine year old what they want to be when they’re older, I want ‘director of planning’ to roll off their lips. In order to do this, POS will explore how we can work with organisations like the RTPI, to equip planners to go to our local schools and colleges and to inspire young people of the fundamental role they could have in shaping our environment.

POS isn’t about doing things in isolation. There’s lots of work being done already, and we will look to collaborate with partners, and work with industry and central Government in new ways, to best represent our members.

This promises to be a really exciting year for POS, and I’m delighted to represent the Society on this next step into the critical future of the profession. For this to work, I would really value your involvement. So my request to you is that you put yourself forward for one small opportunity over the coming year, to share your expertise, or to contribute to our work around future leaders, new technologies or planners of tomorrow, so we will continue to influence Government policy and promote the critical role of public sector planning, in what will be a transformative time ahead.