President's Blog June 2018
26 June 2018
The time has flown by since Steve Ingram took over the role as POS President for 2017/18. I want to thank Steve for his excellent work over the last year and for a great conference which has shown what good planning can achieve. As I take on my year as president I know I am ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ and a high bar has been set.
I’m incredibly proud to take on the presidency of the Planning Officers Society – but it is at an increasingly challenging time for the public sector as a whole and for planners within this. We know – and seen at this year’s POS conference – that good planning delivers great places for people – especially where the desired outcomes are clear and there is political and officer leadership. Good planners are empowered to be creative problem solvers in that environment.
We know as senior planners that it is our job to provide that leadership and purpose in our councils – and the culture we create is more important often than the tools we’re given. I think it is our role also to call out where this isn’t happening and help change this – we’re as good as our weakest link and often judged as a sector on that.
It hasn’t been easy to choose a theme for this year given the breadth of challenges we are facing – but I want to focus on how effective we are being as POS and how we best ensure that we are relevant and representative of our members and the country – a theme of challenging ourselves – especially how we are seen by our members and in our senior roles.
And this is in three key areas.
First, we have tried to help government get their changes to the planning system right and advised where there might be dangers. We must keep doing this but there is currently a ‘one size fits all’ approach that isn’t addressing the increasingly different issues across the country – and quite possibly won’t get the outcomes needed. As POS we need to be able to set out clearly how we would build a different planning system and the set of tools and powers that would deliver what the whole country needs. What are our big ideas – what is our elevator pitch when we have the opportunity to use it? A National Spatial Plan, strategic planning, mass Council House building, Compulsory Selling Order, Green Belt changes, redirected funding, rebalancing of the economy, Industrial Strategy – or in reality probably all of these and more tailored to the differing needs in different places. And POS needs a plan of how we best influence the current and future governments. There is growing energy within the sector for this and the Society needs to be part of this creative thinking.
Second, importantly we still have a good level of membership but engagement in the Society across the country varies considerably. We have great energy in some areas – but almost absent in others. This is not a new issue for us but one I want to give my energy to this year. Something I hope my fellow core city chief planners will help me with and help POS meet and talk with planners and key partners in the regions about their issues and what they need and how the Society might help them.
The third area is perhaps the most pressing. We must urgently do something and keep doing something about not only the number of practicing senior planners in visible roles in POS but also that we reflect, amongst other things the age, gender and cultural diversity of our membership. . It is one thing to recognise these as problems – we have to make it different. The ways to get involved in the Society need to be clear, inviting and inclusive.
There is quite a lot there and I do ask for your help to support and generate even more activism by the Society and public sector planners.
Paul Seddon President 2018/19