It is often said amongst the planning profession that it is hard to explain exactly what town planning means. During this last academic year, 15 undergraduate planning students at Newcastle University have been rising to that very challenge.
Volunteers for the YES Planning project have been learning how to discuss planning issues with young people, to help them understand the processes that change our planned environment, and to allow them to feel that their opinion about the environment is important.
In October 2015, Kevin Franks, from Youth Focus North East trained the student volunteers to work with young people using engagement and participatory techniques.
Building on the tried and tested planning activities that the YES Planning project had developed over the previous two years, this year’s volunteers have worked with around 100 young people in schools and youth councils on local planning issues. Projects have included a controversial planning application for a hot food restaurant; town centre provision for young people; designing an eco-town; and research funded by the Catherine Cookson Foundation which has explored young people’s visions for Tyneside in 2030.
The sessions have been well received by the young people and their leaders. As one youth leader explained: “The sessions were centred around them and their future which is great; their opinions were really valued”.
The student volunteers have also enjoyed the experience of being involved in the project. One volunteer shared: “I enjoyed getting younger people involved in discussions around planning – and gaining their opinions on planning topics”.
YES Planning will continue during next academic year, offering young people in the region the chance to take part in exploratory planning projects relating to their local area; and for the student volunteers, an opportunity to develop skills of working with the community, which are after all, a large part of what being a town planner is about.
The Yes Planning project was initiated and directed by Teresa Strachan,
Lecturer in Town Planning in the School.
For more details please contact Teresa.Strachan@ncl.ac.uk.