RTPI urges governments to make planners central to sustainable post-COVID recovery

Governments across the UK and Ireland must capitalise on the expertise of planners to achieve a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a far-reaching, national campaign launched today by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Plan the World We Need aims to raise awareness of the vital role planners have in every aspect the recovery, including reviving the economy, tackling inequality and meeting net-zero targets by 2050.

The campaign was launched alongside a report, Plan The World We Need: The contribution of planning to a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery, and a short film by RTPI president Sue Manns at the Institute’s annual conference, Planner Live.

Ms Manns said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the strengths and weaknesses of our places and our way of life and it is now vital that we plan a greener, place-based recovery that responds not only to the lessons learned from the pandemic, but also to the challenges that we were grappling with long before COVID, most notably climate change.

“Governments must capitalise on the expertise of spatial planners to tackle place-based inequality, enable a green industrial revolution, prioritise healthy and sustainable modes of transport and coordinate the rapid deployment of zero carbon infrastructure.

“Together we must ensure the renewed focus on sustainable and active travel, the reduction of pollution levels and the increased use of digital technology, seen during lockdown, is sustained alongside an economic recovery.

“As Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in PMQs earlier this month: ‘The green recovery is going to be essential to this country’s success in the next few years.’ The RTPI calls on governments to fully utilise planners and the planning system and empower them to Plan the world we need.”

The RTPI’s campaign is in line with findings from the Committee on Climate Change, which last week published its 2020 report to Parliament assessing progress on reducing UK emissions over the past year. The paper highlights five clear investment priorities: low carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future; tree planting, peatland restoration and green infrastructure, strengthening of energy networks, infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle and work remotely; and moves towards a circular economy.

Ms Manns added: “Without a strong, well-resourced and proactive planning system, we risk a fragmented recovery which misses key opportunities to improve places for the most vulnerable in society, as we move towards a zero carbon future.” 

As part of the campaign, which will initially run for six months, the RTPI will engage with policy makers, parliamentarians and wider stakeholders in all four countries of the UK and in Ireland.

A series of research papers focusing on key issues including healthy place making, the role of planning in achieving net-zero transport and why investment in planning is so vital for the country’s future prosperity, will also be published.

The Institute has also launched an internal climate action plan to mitigate its own carbon footprint.

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.

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