John Mason, associate planner in Carter Jonas’ Cambridge office, has been elected junior vice chair of the RTPI’s regional management board. He considers the role of the RTPI in addressing the image of the planning profession.

On World Town Planning Day last year, the Royal Town Planning Institute launched the It Takes Planners & campaign, designed to tackle misinformation about planning and raise awareness of the vital role the profession plays in creating and delivering liveable communities.

It’s no secret that morale is low in many teams and departments, particularly at local authorities. Years of funding cuts, vacancies, high workloads, and an erosion of trust between developers, officers, elected members, and the public have taken their toll. In a recent RTPI survey, 87 per cent of their members felt that social media was spreading misinformation and fuelling this negativity.

Despite the gloom (which is only compounded by the winter weather), planners should still be able to look at their work with pride. The RTPI’s ‘It Takes Planners &’ campaign highlights the instrumental role planners have in providing high quality housing, greener spaces, better transport infrastructure and improved health. Few fields are as dynamic or varied, and few professions can claim to have such a vital role in shaping the places we live and work.

After three years as part of the East of England young planners committee, I have seen firsthand that despite lingering issues with workloads, employer support for training and progression, and occasional confrontations with members of the public (particularly in the public sector), young professionals in our sector still have plenty of enthusiasm and are proud of the work they do.

The East of England is a particularly diverse and exciting place in which to be a planner. Cambridge, where I am based, looks set to continue to be a motor of the UK economy, with all the challenges and opportunities that follow. As we look towards the year ahead, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that planning professionals are uniquely positioned to positively manage this growth.

From January I will be joining the RTPI’s regional management board as a junior vice chair. I hope to help to continue their objectives of supporting members, promoting best practice, and championing planning. I look forward to working with my fellow professionals to shape the future of this dynamic and diverse region.

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