Planning and planners are critical for the future of the built environment. If we're serious as a society about sustainable living and protecting the planet's future, we need to plan these things properly.
But good planning will require more than a systematic, professional approach. It requires empathy. Planning only fulfils the promise of a project if it connects with the people whom it will impact.
An excellent way of ensuring this happens would be if the planners themselves were more representative of the communities they serve.
Another issue is the skills shortage of planners in the UK. Widening the talent pool to encourage a more diverse makeup of planning trainees could help bridge the skills gap.
How can we inspire the next generation of planners?
We need more planners from backgrounds reflecting broader life experiences, cultures, regions and communities. We want to move away from notions of planning as something imposed from the outside regardless of the community's wishes.
This isn’t simply about fairness or representation. If, as a culture and a nation, we’re going to embrace sustainable growth, we all must feel we have a stake in it.
People are far more likely to buy into a greener approach to planning if they can relate to the planners proposing these concepts.
There's a housing shortage. Everyone's acutely aware of that. At a fundamental level, this is about meeting people’s needs. It’s a social issue more than a design problem. The solution is to design more housing. These new homes should fit in with their surroundings and blend in with existing communities.
It's worth remembering that some of the more infamous, failed housing experiments of the 1960s began as idealistic projects that envisioned how tomorrow's communities would live.
Le Corbusier said these new modernist developments should be “spiritually fulfilling” and create “harmony between people and their surroundings”.
Ultimately, many of these projects failed because they couldn’t engage with the communities they were supposedly built for.
If planners reflect communities better, this should help the built environment provide more and better housing that improves people’s lives.
There’s a shortage of planners in the UK. This is an issue that both the National Audit Office and the TCPA (the Town and Country Planning Association) have highlighted.
The key to addressing this is education – explaining and championing planning as a profession and activity that benefits communities and will help society progress towards a more sustainable future.
Maddox Planning has teamed up with a local business and education partnership to promote planning as a progressive, challenging and rewarding career.
Our focus is broad, from career fairs to secondary schools across different areas. And the reactions have been hugely positive. Plenty of young people we've spoken to were unaware that planning was an available option as a career path.
We also offer work experience for non-planning professionals, to encourage interest in what we do and, hopefully, lay some fertile ground for future entrants into planning.
We should engage young people in planning, both as a concept and a practical discipline that brings demonstrable, positive and lasting results.
Inspiring Future Planners
You can’t leave a legacy unless someone’s prepared to carry it on.
Empathy and education are two crucial areas in which we can work to inspire future planners and establish planning as a positive force for change.
Planning must meet the changing needs of a changing society. It can only do this with more planners from different backgrounds.
We see it as our responsibility to look beyond the immediate concerns of our clients and how we run our business. For us, progressive planning doesn't end when we complete a project.