Getting Things Done

Recent events in the news regarding Brexit, the UK economy and indeed the world economy, as well as increasing world-wide concerns over climate change, plastic in our rivers and oceans and melting ice shelfs have got me thinking about my profession and the industry within which I have worked for some 34 years - I have been reminded of something I was told in my first ever planning job.

Back in 1984 I was lucky enough to work for a chap called Geoffrey Booth. Geoffrey was a former President of the RTPI and former Chief Planner of both Northern Ireland and Essex County Council. He had some 50 years of experience in planning; many at the highest level and was undoubtedly qualified to have an opinion about planning and development - and he most certainly had an opinion about planning and development.

He saw the planning system as a series of necessary hurdles to development but was at pains to stress that planning should be seen as a process of checking mechanisms, of plans and planned mitigation to guide development, rather than a system to frustrate the development industry.

Geoffrey made sure he got this message across to me on my very first day in Bow Lane, London. Geoffrey took me out for lunch. His first question to me was “what do you think planners do, and what do you think they should do?”. I thought that this sounded like a theory of a planning essay topic and so I trotted out the usual response of balancing competing needs and demands, controlling and preventing harm to the environment and meeting housing, infrastructure and economic development needs.  

Geoffrey’s response was simply; that’s all well and good, but essentially it is about getting things done. Planning must facilitate, it must be pro-active and stuff must be delivered on the ground. If there is a need for the development but a need for mitigation, then we have to find those solutions and find a way forward.

Coming from someone who had managed planning within a county and indeed a country, the call for positivity and a proactive approach to planning struck a chord with me.  

With increasing concern over the impacts of development and potential harm to the planet, we simply have to work harder and be ever more creative to find solutions. And then, still get things done. That means everyone; public sector, private sector, consultants across the various fields, developers and investors; finding ways to deliver on the ground in commercially viable and environmentally sensitive ways.

John Collins, Director

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