Voting opens today for the RTPI’s national Young Planner of the Year award and with only one candidate from the London region RTPI London Calling Blog caught up with Jonathan Manns, Associate Director of Planning at Colliers International, to see what makes him tick.
Q: Hi Jon, you’ve been nominated for Young Planner of the Year. How does that make you feel?
A: Great, thanks. It’s a fantastic opportunity to bang the drum for our profession. Planners have taken a bit of stick over the past few years but there can’t be many jobs with the same potential to have such a tangible, lasting and positive impact.
Q: You’re the only candidate from London. Do you think this sets you apart?
A: There’s a real range of planners nominated this year and from right across the country, but I wouldn’t want to have worked anywhere else. I’ve advised on some great Central London schemes – from tall buildings to large scale regeneration projects – and with so much going on in the capital at the moment you can’t help but appreciate the extent to which planning shapes the city’s future.
Q: How do you currently promote the profession?
A: I’ve been an RTPI London Regional Activities Committee member and its professional representative at the inter-disciplinary London Planning & Development Forum for the past five years.
I’m also co-ordinating an RTPI Working Group on “The City without Public Economic Funds”, as part of a Europe-wide ECTP-CEU young planners initiative. That said, my real enthusiasm is for taking the debate to people who might not normally be engaged. This has led me to speak and publish in the UK, EU, USA and China – everything from the World Town Planning Expo 2006 and Jiangsu Foreign Experts Symposium 2007 to the forthcoming IFHP Centenary World Congress 2013. In the last few months I’ve met politicians when presenting at the European Union, the general public as Expert Planning Advisor at Grand Designs Live and a host of others following a slot on the BBC News. I also run a built environment community outreach programme for young professionals.
Q: You certainly seem very passionate about planning and incredibly active in promoting it; can we assume you would encourage other people to join the profession?
A: Planning is a career with a huge amount to offer and as an RTPI APC Mentor I would certainly encourage anyone wishing to pursue it to work towards Chartership. It’s great for people with a passion for the built environment, empathy and an ability to balance a range of issues; but I also firmly believe that planning is a profession with which everybody can engage at some level. Whether it’s contributing to a local plan or discussing the Government’s economic policy, chatting in the pub or actively learning in the classroom, planning affects us all. Everybody is, to some extent, a planner. Community and school outreach projects are a great way to get this message across and young planners are particularly well-placed to take these forward.
Q: It’s one of our favourite questions, but is there anyone from the built environment professions (past or present) that you find particularly inspiring or who has been a real influence.
A: It’s always been those who’ve raised their voice, pushed the debate and made a difference. Of course this includes people like William Morris, Thomas Sharp and Jane Jacobs, but my most inspiring moments have undoubtedly been “on the job”. Working as a private sector consultant and a volunteer for Planning Aid has allowed me to see development from a range of perspectives and it’s not only humbling to see the passion that people invest into their communities but genuinely beneficial to design quality to understand how a scheme will be used and by whom.
Q: What would be the cause that you would promote through your 1 year as Young Planner of the year?
A: Does planning count? It might sound a bit clichéd but I think now is the time to be proud of planning and planners. We simply can’t let the profession languish in rhetoric around “ivory towers” and being a “drag anchor to growth”. Planners have the skills and drive to make things happen and that’s something we all need to shout about! Young Planners have a freshness of perspective and enthusiasm which regularly sets them apart from the crowd and I’m keen to use this opportunity to help raise the level of debate and get people involved through increased outreach work, CPD and thought leadership.
Q: What’s your favourite building in London?
A: I wouldn’t want to settle on one in particular because, quite frankly, there are so many. To an extent you’re also comparing apples with pears. I always get a real sense of being at the heart of London when I see the BT Tower and can’t help to be impressed by the St Pancras train shed and Trellick Tower – all of which were built by people who dared to try something different and embrace change. If I had to throw my hat into the ring on something contemporary I’m also increasing fond of the ‘walkie talkie’ at 20 Fenchurch Street, which seems to work well both architecturally and commercially.
Voting opens today and you can register your support for Jonathan via this link.
Jonathan’s LinkedIn profile may be viewed here.
Name: Jonathan Manns.
Role: Associate Director of Planning, Colliers International.
University: Sheffield (History) and then Cambridge (Planning, Growth & Regeneration).
First Job: English Assistant with Jiangsu Provincial Government (Nanjing, China). Started: 2006.