Welcome to our new blog which we will use to keep members up to date with Institute initiatives and activities and which, through guest blog posts, will showcase recent developments and best practice in planning and provide challenging, entertaining and informative posts on issues affecting planners and planning today. If you have an idea for a guest blog post please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Council term is the first full term using the new Council structure adopted at the AGM in 2015. Our Council year and term of office now begins in January and it has been an extremely busy start to the term so far.
As you will be aware, the IPI has been involved in the SPECIAL (Spatial Planning and Energy for Communities in All Landscapes) which has seen the roll-out of training for planners in the area of energy and planning. I attended the final project Conference in London at the start of February which reflected on the project experience and case studies. The project has gathered a huge amount of resources on the topic which can be accessed on the IPI site here.
In February, the winners of the IPI Planning Awards were announced at a black tie ceremony in Dublin Castle, presided over by the incomparable Marty Whelan. As always, the winning entries in the Planning Awards have valuable lessons for planning. In particular, I felt this year that many of the winning awards entries excelled by having a clear vision and then focusing on achieving that vision: the North Lotts and Grand Canal Docks Planning Scheme which will see the development of a new vibrant city quarter in the Docklands; the Wild Atlantic Way which sustainably and coherently capitalises upon the tourism resources in the west of Ireland; the development of the Clarisford Park recreational facility in Killaloe and Clarisford on a community and collaborative basis, and the writing of a Development Plan, the Longford County Development Plan, which could connect with its most important audience – the people of Longford themselves. After all, as planners we all want to see the end product resulting from our work and more than ever we are seeing the need for evidence based planning documents to be matched by the necessary tools to achieve their implementation. I believe that the Awards have a valuable role in raising the profile of planning, showcasing the best of planning and the skills that planners bring to projects and highlighting the positive side of planning that all too often is overlooked. They were featured in the national media including the Irish Independent and Irish Examiner, local media, trade publications and a number of local radio stations.
In March, the Report of the Independent Review Group on An Bord Pleanála was published. Following consultation with members, the IPI made a submission to the Department on the report and its recommendations and have requested to meet the Department to discuss the Report further. The IPI’s Planning Conference in April was attended by over 300 planning and other professionals who were updated on topics as diverse as future strategic planning in both jurisdictions, viability assessment, Marine Spatial Planning and the role of the profession into the future. Particular thanks go to Westmeath County Council who were hosts for the event in Athlone and held a reception for members on Wednesday evening where we launched the IPI’s Policy Position Papers. These eleven papers set out the Institute’s view on the role of planning in advancing key issues affecting the island of Ireland and address issues including resource management, fiscal policy, built and cultural heritage and settlement and housing. They can be accessed on the members' area of the IPI website.
More recently, on 25th April, I attended the Planning and Strategic Infrastructure SPC meeting in Fingal County Council in relation to the Fingal-Lesotho Partnership Project to which the IPI has contributed. The IPI has been involved through assisting planners in Lesotho in establish a professional institute and delivering training to planners. Both the previous president Mary Hughes and executive Director Seán O’Leary have visited Lesotho as part of their work on the project. The SPC meeting also heard from some of the other groups involved including our own Council member Joe Corr, Action Ireland, DIT and transition year students from local schools. The enthusiasm of everyone concerned was evident. The SPC supported the recommendation that Fingal County Council continue their involvement in the project. Endorsement of this will be sought from the full Council and a memorandum of understanding will be agreed for the next stage of the project.
Through this year’s awards and conference we have seen the positive difference that good planning makes to communities and to securing a vibrant economy. Professional planners are at the centre of this. When we consider the importance of the decisions that planners make and that are made on the foot of the expert judgement and advice of planners, it is surely a glaring omission that there is no legal recognition or reference to the profession of planners. This is an issue which the IPI has continued to pursue because we believe that legal clarity is needed on the term planner to emphasise that professional planners are distinct qualified professionals with high educational standards and are bound by a professional code of ethics. I hope that the next Bill which addresses the Office of the Planning Regulator include complementary reference to the status of planners.
IPI had called for the new Government to make the Minister of Housing and Planning post a full cabinet position and it was great to see our advice being taken! We look forward to working with the new governments in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to highlight the role of planners and the planning system in delivering sustainable development across Ireland.
Finally, we are in the process of preparing a new Corporate Plan for the Institute which will guide its activities from 2017 - 2019. An online survey for members was open from 11th April to 6th May. We held our May Council meeting in Portlaoise where there was a consultation workshop on the Plan, followed by a law and practice briefing CPD event. Another workshop will be held on 2nd June in Limerick, which will coincide with the summer CPD event on developments in planning and flood risk management. Many thanks to those who completed the survey and attended the workshop. If you are not available to attend a workshop we welcome any comments or general suggestions by email to email@example.com.