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President's Blog June 2017

Date: 17/6/2017

Doesn't time fly - as it really does not seem like 12 months since we were all on the top floor of that wonderful GLA building over-looking the Thames congratulating Anna at the start of her Presidential year. Thank you Anna for all your work hard and for your contributions over the past year and as I've always known; you will be a hard act to follow.

I'm immensely proud to be taking on this role - and when you are invited to do so you are encouraged to choose a theme for your year - accordingly the theme I've chosen is based upon the indisputable fact that 'Planning is for us all'.

That sounds simplistic but the key underlying premise is that planning is a process that does affect everyone. Planning is about things that really matter to people, it influences and impacts upon everybody's daily lives - where we live, how we work, how we access our local services and above all how we all experience the world around us.

I think I can honestly also say that I know from personal experience that planning matters to people - we've all experienced the overflowing meeting room when planning issues that really impact upon and affect local people are being debated. Indeed I've often joked with my community development colleagues that the planning service should actually be the main recipient of their budget because, as we all know, a really controversial local planning issue does more for practical community engagement than anything else! We also know that lots of our elected Members will have initially got involved with local politics because of their involvement with a controversial planning issue.

My theme also has an essential wider geographic aspect to it. Last year we were in London and today we are in Milton Keynes - both being great and rather unique places in themselves but they are not, and cannot be considered to be, typical of the rest of the country.

Planning issues and the significant pressures related to them are universal and I'm sure that the challenges associated with dealing with them are being evaluated and determined on a daily basis within all of the 371 English local authorities and other public sector planning bodies.

On that basis I think it's an incredible achievement, and a fundamental endorsement of POS's credibility that, on the last count, we had some 272 public sector planning organisations from all across the country registered as Members of the Society. That is a take up rate of over 73% - which, in these difficult financial times, I think is an amazing statement of support for the ethos and work of the Society.

Well done to us all for eliciting that level of commitment from our Peers - but clearly we all need to continue to work hard in order to ensure that the ongoing work of the Society remains consistently relevant to our Membership.

We all know that 'development pressures' are evident everywhere - and it could possibly be argued that there have never been greater pressures on our urban and rural areas; pressures to accommodate additional housing and economic growth within what many people still regard as being our green and pleasant land.

Of course, when rates of house building are mentioned and compared, we all know that there was also fundamental large scale growth taking place in the immediate post war period, but to me it appears that there was greater acceptance of the need for that growth because of what our forebears had just been through.

Today we live in a world of quite different legal and environmental constraints, with the internet seemingly having the ability to instantly make every objector a planning expert. As such I think that it can be strongly argued that there has never been a greater need for the local planning process, in all its forms, to function both effectively and diligently in the public interest.

If we are going to be able to deliver the quantum of development that successive Governments have anticipated then there has never been a greater need for all public sector planners to be able to make demonstrable positive contributions to the wellbeing of their areas.

Therefore as planning is for, and affects us all, the Planning Officers Society needs to be supporting, in as many ways as possible, those hard pressed local authority planners who are, despite everything that is being thrown at them, and all that is happening around them, still achieving great things and delivering really positive outcomes on a daily basis despite, in many cases, having access to diminishing resources.

Therefore in conclusion during my Presidential year I intend to ensure that we build upon the extremely solid foundations that have been laid down by all my predecessors in this office - that we safeguard our values and ethos - and that the Planning Officers Society robustly remains at the forefront of promoting sector-led best practice - and that POS continues to offer pro-active valued support to all aspects of public sector planning.

Steve Ingram, President 2017/18

Steve Ingram President 17_18_web.jpg


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