Friday, 9 December 2016

Brexit and the RTPI

This year's AGM for RTPI East Midlands was held in Grantham at The Guildhall courtesy of South Kesteven District Council. Grantham may be away from the main population centres of Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, but a good crowd of over 40 was attracted. This was principally, I am sure, to the preceding discussion on Brexit and Planning. It was led by Professor Janet Morphet, ably assisted by this year's national RTPI President  Phil Williams, Director of Planning at Belfast City Council.

Guildhall Grantham
Prof. Morphet gave an excellent overview of the range of options for the UK leaving the EC and the potential implications on all the key areas that interest Planners. Clearly, as she readily acknowledged, we are in unchartered territory and uncertainty is the key analysis of the likely impacts of leaving.

All that said I found the presentation and subsequent response to questions depressing, but not I suspect for the reasons she outlined.

We are in uncertain times. There is a significant percentage chance that economically it might make us worse off. But do we really have to be so negative about the whole issue?

It is not all doom and gloom. The British people, rightly or wrongly voted, for Brexit. In my opinion a lot of the vote against was a rejection by those on the outside against the urban elites, especially in the south-east, who have clearly done well this century. But that good fortune has been inadequately distributed. To characterise, as Prof Morphet did on more than one occasion, that people with her views were and are being bullied by the Brexiteers is disingenuous to put it mildly. They can stand up for themselves. Personally I was voting for remain until the constant haranguing the night before the election by remain supporters on how was I going to vote turned me into an abstainer.

The urban elites in power, the 40 to 60 year olds, of which I might just be included, have never had it so good. No world wars to fight, free education to post graduate level, massive asset value increases with privately owned homes, early  retirement (given the increased age spans) and triple lock pensions. Compare that with the younger generation: those in low paid jobs that have not increased in value for a decade; only very expensive university education on offer; and, limited training for the technical skills we really need from those who don’t go to university.

The easy way to react to change and uncertainty is to be negative. What we need to do is be positive: What are the new opportunities of Brexit? What should we be doing differently? There is a brave new world out there. The opportunities need to be seized. They will not fall into our lap. Above all be inclusive and relate to as wide a constituency as possible. Love him or hate him the public persona of Nigel Farage is that he relates to those other than the urban elites. There is a lesson in this for all of us.