Blog: 23 May 2016Place-making: It’s nothing new, it’s what good planners do

Dan Mitchell

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Dan Mitchell

Planning Director

Manchester office

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I’m a planner by profession. I studied Town and Country Planning at University. Why, I hear you ask? Because I liked geography, economics and buildings. I like debate and strategic thinking and frankly speaking, I am quite enthusiastic about new and old buildings. I’m quite proud and passionate about the projects I’ve been involved with and it’s great to see schemes getting built on the ground. I suspect that most planners share similar views of the world.

Which is why I’m bemused by the latest buzzwords and rhetoric that circulates the development community. We’ve had “built environment professionals” and similar terms in the past, but it cannot have escaped people’s attention that the latest trend is the term “Place-making”. Presumably, those involved in such an industry are “the place-makers.” A bit like “the games-makers” from the 2012 Olympics or “the tour-makers” from Yorkshire’s Tour de France foray. These must be the people who make and shape development and create places where people want to live and work. Right? They are probably people who have the words place-maker branded across a high-vis vest.


Those in the media and conference circles are going at this full throttle. Since the BBC’s “Meet the Planners” programme (which made it to two series), our profession has an increased public status and people now know what we do.

Planning magazine is hosting the inaugural “Planning and Place-making Awards” in June, with a sub-heading “Two sets of awards, one great celebration”. Sounds like a top night and a step away from the National Planning Awards. The judges’ task must be difficult though. What’s a planning award compared to a place-making award?

Here at Barton Willmore, we are well versed in planning and design, our two core services. Our internal planning for non-planners training course helps explain the profession to our design colleagues. In return, all our town planning staff go on the design for non-designers course, where we get a flavour for the intricacies of building design, architecture and public spaces. It helps create the best, rounded professional team.

This year is our 80th year as a Practice. We’ve therefore been influential in the property industry for a long time. So this brings me back to “Place-making”. It’s nothing new. It’s just what good planners should always do!

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