In the summer of 2020, the idea that we would now be slowly emerging from Lockdown 3.0 was not something many people would have thought possible.
Following the national lockdown 1.0, I was asked to take part in a panel of young planners in conversation with the President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). As we had been in the grips of the global pandemic for a few months at this time; the topic of discussion was working from home (WFH).
As young planners, WFH was never something that we had to consider. When starting our careers presenteeism was the order of the day. We spent most of our working day either on site or in the office.
As the effects of the pandemic grew, in late March 2020 it was apparent that WFH would be the norm for planners as the country entered a national lockdown. Following lockdown 1.0, and examining their own WFH habits, planning professionals started to examine the way they could voice their opinion and convey their personal experiences in a practical manner. It was clear to most planners that the limitations of the current planning system would need to be overcome.
Despite planning professionals being separated, fellow RTPI Young Planners made a conscious decision to get together on Teams calls and WhatsApp groups to share their stories. Conversing with fellow members we found that there were several positive unintended consequences of the lockdowns. We discovered that young fathers in planning were able to see more of their children and equally young mothers found themselves with more time to manage home and school life. WFH meant we were still just as busy but were able to better connect with our families and manage our time more effectively.
During this difficult period, we were reminded that the planning profession isn't very accessible for the general population. At this time, one’s immediate urban environment has taken on a renewed importance to local people. As the planning world fully moved online in April 2020, we found that many people started to become more interested in their built environments, whether attending their first virtual planning committee, or attending a 3D virtual town hall. The speed at which this took place was even for us planners unprecedented. For the first time we noticed that we could take the temperature of local people’s views on a development in real time.
Pre-pandemic, the planning system was not prepared to accommodate WFH. Today, homeworking professionals demand dedicated working spaces which enable them to conduct business as if they were ‘in the office’. As planning professionals, we should strive to facilitate this – whether planning new adaptable homes, enabling home extensions or garden offices, or planning for co-working spaces within towns and cities.
A well-known maxim of the planning profession is, “are you leaving places better than you found them?”
In light of the events of the last year, we as planners must bring about the change that we want to see in our built environment. It may be easy to say that not much has changed yet in the planning system. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that new policy is robust and ready to be implemented to meet these new demands so that the positive changes can be experienced indefinitely.
Carla is the Planning Policy and Appeals Manager at The Planning Bureau Ltd. based in Bournemouth. She specialises in the delivery of retirement living and extra care developments across the UK.
If you found this blog of interest, you can also read a range of other resources on designing and planning for working from home on the Housing LIN’s dedicated ‘work ready housing’ webpage.
Lastly, if you would like to find out more about how the Housing LIN can support you develop your housing for older people strategic vision and/or operational plans to meet the future accommodation needs of older adults, including for people living with dementia and their carers, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org