President's Blog May 2018

29 May 2018

As we now enter into May and summer has, eventually after some delay and deliberations, finally arrived with a flourish this will be my last blog as President as Paul Seddon, who is Nottingham’s Chief Planner, will be succeeding me in the role at next month’s POS AGM.

So perhaps this is the ideal opportunity for me to reflect on the themes that have been prominent during the last year.

To begin with I have to say time fly’s as I can honestly say it really doesn’t seem like 12 months since I was taking over from Anna Rose and perhaps indeed there is also something of a fundamental lesson for us all in that – make sure you enjoy it and treasure the time we all have.

But enough amateur philosophising – in reviewing the pertinent issues throughout the last year it strikes me that four themes have emerged, have consistently needed to be addressed and that will need to be emphasised as we move forward.

Firstly, it has been abundantly clear to me that POS needs to ensure that it remains entirely relevant to its Membership. Our working environment is a diverse and wide spread one and POS as an organisation needs to ensure that we acknowledge and respond to the differing demands of our membership. Significantly I think that we do need to ensure, whilst acknowledging the importance of our obvious strength and influence in the south and south-east, that we are appropriately national in our outlook and perspective. Initiatives such as our successful programme of free national workshops have helped to spread our coverage and importantly to me they have reiterated the essential diversity of planning issues in our urban and rural areas.

Secondly, I’m convinced that POS needs to maintain and indeed enhance its positive positioning regarding staffing issues and available resourcing generally within local planning authorities. The Society, whenever it gets the opportunity, has consistently petitioned and strongly argued that for our planning system to work well it needs to be appropriately resourced. Whilst there is obviously not a magic wand solution to this fundamentally complex issue extensive good work has been done, and perhaps very importantly, there is now a pretty clear consensus about this amongst many development industry partners. Indeed at last month’s joint POS/British Property Federation Conference in Birmingham several diverse speakers appropriately emphasised the point directly to Simon Gallagher from MHCLG.  

Thirdly, POS absolutely needs to continue the great work that it is already doing with regard to positively shaping and influencing the composition and direction of national planning policy. The Society prides itself on being the credible voice of public sector planning and I can honestly say that our views, because they directly derive from that solid foundation, do carry significant weight. Indeed I’m drafting this on my East Coast train into Kings Cross as a delegation from POS head off to Marsham Street in order to meet with key people from MHCLG in order to positively influence the drafting of the new NPPF.

Finally, I think it is imperative that POS continues to extol the many virtues and the essential value that can be derived from good planning. I’m utterly convinced that proactive planning can be, and indeed is, such a positive and powerful tool for the overall betterment of all our communities and environments. Accordingly POS, and certainly it’s been a bit of a personal crusade for me this year, has therefore lobbied hard to avoid the planning process from being inappropriately by-passed by initiatives such as poorly thought out additional blanket national permitted development rights.

Therefore in conclusion I would like to leave you with my sincere convictions that the Planning Officers Society is in a pretty good state of overall health. I know that we are increasingly relevant via our proactive contributions and our engagement with both Government and the wider development industry and from the work that we are doing to positively influencing both the formulation and application of policy.

Finally it is a key part of the President’s role to ensure that the future of the Society is in safe hands. Therefore I’m really pleased to say that I think that has been well and truly achieved in that the new leadership team that will take office from next month – which is Paul Seddon as President, Sarah Platts as Senior Vice President and Richard Morris as Junior Vice President – will in my opinion bring all of the drive and enthusiasm that is required.

that’s me done – whilst I hope to see as many of you as possible at next month’s President’s conference – as my parting shot I’d ask you all to keep believing that proactive positive planning can really make a difference to the wellbeing of the country and especially to all of the special places and communities that we all cherish.

Happy Planning!

Steve Ingram President 2017/18