World Town Planning Day 2023
Lawrence Turner, Director at Boyer Bristol & Cardiff encourages us all to celebrate the work undertaken by Town Planners nationwide
Wednesday 8th November is World Town Planning Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the indispensable role of Town Planners in shaping our cities and towns and balancing the needs of communities, businesses, and the environment. As a Town Planner at Boyer, I feel incredibly privileged to be part of a profession that not only contributes to the future development of our communities, but also promotes sustainability and placemaking at the heart of our projects. On this special occasion, I aim to shed light on the significance of a career in town planning, highlighting some of the challenges we face and the rewarding outcomes that arise from our work.
Town planners are essentially “place-makers,” helping to create communities for people to live and work. In doing so, they play a fundamental role in balancing the needs of the local community, businesses and the environment. Their expertise is essential in addressing various challenges that arise, such as tackling the ongoing housing crisis, climate change, adapting to changing political landscapes, and effectively engaging with the community.
One of the major challenges in town planning today is the pressing need for adequate housing. The Government's target of building 300,000 new homes per year underscores the urgency to address the housing crisis. However, political changes often shift targets and objectives, which may affect how Town Planners meet these challenges. For instance, if there is a change in Government next year, there might be a renewed focus on the creation of New Towns designed with traditional architecture, preferred over contemporary designs. Proponents argue that such an approach can help overcome NIMBYism by reflecting people’s desire for more Victorian and Georgian-style homes. Additionally, the return of Development Corporations, as witnessed in the creation of New Towns in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, might become a viable option with the support of publicly funded development corporations.
The critical role of Town Planners cannot be overstated when it comes to delivering projects like the creation of New Towns. Planners must coordinate the delivery of infrastructure, evolve plan-making and development management powers, and expedite decision-making processes. Furthermore, they must possess a comprehensive understanding of local and national politics to ensure the alignment of their projects with public interests. By navigating these complexities, Town Planners have the unique opportunity to shape sustainable and thriving communities, fulfilling their responsibilities as custodians of our cities and towns.
Sustainability is at the core of Town Planning, and Planners are instrumental in designing communities that minimise environmental impact, for example by integrating green spaces, promoting sustainable transport, and implementing energy-efficient practices. By prioritising sustainability, Town Planners have the power to contribute to the fight against climate change and foster a healthier and more liveable environment for current and future generations.
At its heart, Town Planning seeks to improve the quality of life for residents. Planners work tirelessly to create communities that are conducive to well-being, where residents have access to local services and amenities, efficient public transport, and vibrant social spaces. By considering the needs and aspirations of diverse populations, Town Planners facilitate the development of communities that promote inclusivity, diversity, and social cohesion.
Often, Town Planners unfairly bear the brunt of public criticism. However, their role is much more granulated than it appears on the surface. The role of a Planner seeks to balance various environmental, infrastructure, economic and political factors and influences – a balancing act of these many considerations which is not always clear to the public eye. However, the ultimate aim is the betterment of the lives of existing residents and future generations.
On this World Town Planning Day, let us celebrate the indispensable role of Town Planners in shaping our cities and towns. Their dedication, expertise, and knowledge are vital in addressing the challenges we face, be it the housing crisis, an ageing population, climate change, or the urgent need for sustainable communities. As we navigate the ever-changing political landscape and the evolving needs of our society, the role of Town Planners becomes increasingly important.
A career in Town Planning presents a wealth of challenges that can be highly rewarding for those who have a passion for it.