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Town Planning Profession and the Missing Links

Physical Planning is concerned with the design, growth and management of the physical environment in accordance with pre-determined and agreed policies, whereby balanced social and economic objectives may be achieved. This is effected through the provision and coordination of all forms of development activity at national, regional and local levels, making the fullest, most appropriate and effective use of available human and natural resources, bearing in mind also the present day needs and the future generations.

The contributions of Physical Planning can be summarized under three broad levels:

  1. Providing a planned spatial framework of development for the physical environment within which a balanced programme of social and economic development can be carried out;
  2. Providing the legislation necessary for the planning control and implementation of the physical development process and;
  3. Helping to ensure the establishment of centralized, consultative infrastructure with overall responsibility for planning, evaluation, co-ordination, administration and implementation of a comprehensive development programme.

Physical planning therefore is no longer simply a technical exercise of land selection and physical design. It has broadened into an activity of social purpose where the shaping of the physical environment is conducted within a web of social and economic objectives.

It is clear from the definition that apart from the fact that Physical Planning changes the physical environment, it also provides framework for social and economic development.

There exists so many posts, comment, opinions from young planners, unemployed planners, graduate planners condemning and castigating old town planners for doing nothing to help and savage the profession some even insult and call them names, they see them as not doing anything for the profession, they vent their anger on the leaders not minding the consequences.

Yes the planning profession has some issues, ranging from unemployment to non recognition from family and friends, neglect from government agencies, plus the politicization of planning issues which are just some of the conditions making the young Town planners to vent their anger of our leaders in the profession, but are the leaders at fault?

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THE MISSING LINKS

Based on an assessment (subject to criticism), the elders have tried but the youths are still complaining and are blaming the elders why? It is as a result of some missing link that has created a not too good condition for the planning profession, the links will be addressed one after another and we might find a better way to close the links.

The missing links

COMMUNICATION

As a planner, we all have noticed that there is a big communication gap between the elders and the young ones, between the Planners and the Public, between the Government and the Institute,  Planning agencies and Practicing planners, Planners in the academics, private sectors and Planners in the public sectors, The synergy needed to work and achieve one goal is missing, We don’t communicate with each other the way we ought to, we operate in our different realm and believe we can do it without each other. For us to move the way we ought to, we need to combine all our strength and energy, fight the same course and speak the same language with one voice that will protect and promote the profession. (Its the solo movement of a snake that led him to his death, if snakes move in groups, hunters will run for his life)

While the elders are talking and fighting, the youths are quite and observing or is it learning. The only times we hear from our elders, until recently are during workshops and conferences. This has created a lot of misinformation and poor understanding of the modules operand of the profession.

Most of the young ones still believe in the spoon feeding approach, the world is moving faster and been a graduate is not enough to sustain you, what can sustain you, is to be proactive, ready to learn and innovative.

The youth is the strength of any society, organization and association and we need them more to move this profession to the next level we need to communicate with them more, they suppose to ask questions, seek for knowledge but if they don’t, elders need to force them, if need be force feed them for a secure future.

POLITICS

Town planners in the nation don’t get involved in politics, we hardly get ourselves involved in anything that is politics and this can be traced back to our training while in school, we don’t get ourselves involved in departmental politics, school politics, student union politics, etc. Our profession can only be projected if we are in leadership position or close to the leaders, how can they hear us, if we ignore POLITICS.

Planners focus on policy formulation, beautiful drawings, voluminous reports and big grammars, we ignore and fail to project the political and revenue aspect of the plans which is the language that the politicians understand, we don’t speak the language they understand and we expect the politicians to understand us……it can’t work….. Because of this missing link, our plans and reports are abandoned by the politicians due to lack of communication.

Very few town planners engage in politics and that is why we are not getting where we are supposed to be, it is high time we got involved in politics in order to plan our dear country and fight for our right. Look at it this way, we design a plan, we write a proposal and we give it to politician who did not understand how it will it be implemented what do we have STALEMATE! planners plan for politicians, who don’t have a plan to implement  the planners plan if politician dont implement our plans, why cant planners be the politician to plan?, convincingly for us to get it as a planner, we need to play politics, plan politics and do politics. How planners contribute to solve environmental challenges determines their visibility.

(Planners in politics should protect planning profession not Personal Pocket…)

TRAINING /MENTORSHIP

We need to change and upgrade our courses, public relations and politics is needed for planning to grow, it has been observed that planners are not usually free or trained to network, socialize and relate with other students in other departments, because of their tight schedules or what? They hardly participate in campus politics and activities including sports, it is so bad that the people, who will value us more, are the ones we neglect most.

We look for faults almost in everything, we complained about issues and condemn anyhow (we even condemn ourselves right from our studios designs; we hardly appreciate ourselves. we believe that if you can’t criticize, you are not knowledgeable). As a young planner look for somebody to mentor you, as an elder in the profession please mentor somebody. The teenage years can be difficult and lonely as most teens struggle to fit in and take on new responsibilities but training is key, and mentorship is the solution.

If your ship doesnt come in, swim out to meet it – Jonathan Winters

PUBLICITY/ PUBLIC RELATIONS PLANNING

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail” is an apt diction to describe the process of Public Relations Programming. The statement underscores the importance of Public Relations to Planning Town planning over years have its ugly sides projected by the media and public at large.

We need aggressive Public Relations Planning, Public Relations  is “deliberate” planned and “sustained effort”, underscores the status of planning as an indispensable ingredient in this business of “mutual relationship-building”.  Planning Public Relations programme requires a systematic and scientific approach.  This is particularly so because PR involves an “exercise in fact finding” (Oso, 2003).  It starts with the research, and also ends with research.  In other words, if the right public must be reached in Public Relations campaign must be predicated on planning rooted in fact finding.

Since PR programme planning thrives on fact-finding, it follows that its operationalization must be scientific and systematic because scientific and systematic procedures are hallmarks of research.

Planning is either long-range or short-range.  Which of the two we embark upon, the essence of planning in Public Relations is to ensure that ultimately, we achieve tangible and successful results.

Four major points have been identified as the purposes of planning in Public Relations.

  • To make something happen
  • To prevent something from happening
  • To exploit situation(s)
  • To remedy situation(s)

It is best to plan PR for the purpose of making thing happen, better to use it to prevent something from happening and good to use it to exploit situation.  It is not a good practice to wait until there is problem before starting to plan Public Relations programme.  In other words, using PR to remedy a bad situation is not the best of purposes for planning PR programme.

We must use our resources to promote and project who we are and what we stood for because if we don’t do it nobody will do it for us

FUNDING

If plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters – Chris Guillebeau

Another major link that is missing is funding, Money is the wheel of progress they say, and this is applicable to all activities of the planning profession.

We desire big, we want a wonderfully and beautifully organize Conferences, We want the best and the most beautify building, we want to be the best paid professional. But are we ready to pay the price? Most of the members post on social media and comments usually is, as a person what are we doing to help the profession individually, do we donate for our events, do we pay our dues.

Funding is a major thing for any organization or association to succeed and planners need to change their attitude and improve their financial relationship with the professional body, think of what you can do for the planning profession to grow because when it grows, you grow .

PASSION FOR PLANNING

Eighty percent of planners are in the field by accident they choose the course after they failed in other field or they are denied from other courses they prefer, some even make town planning their second choice, with this entry point. I think the passion for the profession is very low, with the attitude of some people, one is tempted to wonder if they are planners, some members stop attending conferences and discussions as soon as they are registered as members, some town planning members are so busy that they don’t have time for the profession again. How can they make the desired change for the profession when they are not there when decision are taken.

The Missing Link is like arranging a puzzle, we need to keep trying till we get it right.

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About Author: This article originally appeared in “Voice of a Town Planner” by  Olugbenga Oladimeji Ashiru.

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