Reflections on A Sense of Place: Planning and Identity

EP colleagues Alannah and Jo attended the RTPI Young Planner’ Conference in Newcastle on the 1st and 2nd November. This year’s theme was ‘A Sense of Place: Planning and Identity’.  Our ‘home turf’ in the North East provided a perfect location to explore the contemporary challenges facing urban planners in the 21st century – from the role of heritage in everyday life; to the relationship between humanity and wilderness in an ever-changing coastline; and grappling with the tensions of how to balance national and local priorities.

The conference saw planners from public and private sectors across the UK coming together to consider these critical issues through a series of plenary sessions, smaller interactive workshops and study tours. Unsurprisingly, the climate emergency and political uncertainty were key threads that ran through discussions spanning smart cities and public participation, biodiversity net gain, planning law updates and considerations for ‘good’ design. The recently established North of Tyne Authority raises the question of what potential devolution has to improve placemaking and identity in the North East’s urban areas – and how it might facilitate cleaner, greener, more equitable mobility whilst retaining a unique sense of place. These issues would surely feel familiar to Ms Jacobs.  

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

 – Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Clearly, much thought and work has been put into the conference to make it such a success. Thank you to all the speakers for taking the time to prepare and attend. A particular commendation should go to Landmark Chambers who managed to deliver most of their workshop on Planning Law by way of an interactive quiz, to memorable comedic effect. Congratulations to the RTPI North East Young Planners Committee for putting together such a stimulating programme and for all your hard work behind the scenes. 

We have been reflecting on what we learnt and seeking to integrate this into conversations with our colleagues. Given the challenges that the UK is currently facing, we will analyse some of these issues in more detail… watch this space!

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