Celebrating 125 years of supporting people and places to thrive

This blog by TCPA Chief Executive, Fiona Howie, is adapted from the On the Agenda piece published in the May/June edition of the Town & Country Planning Journal

On 10 June 1899 the Garden City Association held its first meeting and Mr Alfred Bishop was elected as Chair. One hundred and twenty five years later, while our name has changed, the vision of those founding members of homes, places and communities in which everyone can thrive remains at the heart of what the Association does.

As part of reflecting on our anniversary, I looked back at how the journal, Town & Country Planning, marked the organisation’s centenary. The July 1999 edition, which is available on the TCPA’s journal archive website, featured contributions from eight of the Association’s vice presidents. The contributions are an interesting mix of reflections on individual’s involvement in the organisation, thoughts on what had been achieved and what needed to the focus for the future.

What we are trying to achieve in terms of supporting people, places and the planet to thrive, is as relevant today as it ever was.

The Association was very sorry to receive news in January of the death of one of former chairs, Mary Riley. During her lifetime Mary achieved remarkable things and was still one of our vice presidents at the time of her death. Her passing made reading her contribution to the centenary piece even more poignant. Her contribution included:

After 100 years are we still relevant? The problems this country faces in land use and the environment are more intense now [than] in Howard’s time, and the local and human issues within them have become more explicit. We have a function to be objective, to seek solutions, and to express them. We must continue.

This feels as true today as it no doubt was 25 years ago. In articles and speeches I frequently say that I believe the Association and what we are trying to achieve in terms of supporting people, places and the planet to thrive, is as relevant today as it ever was. As Mary urged us to, we continue to seek and express solutions. And while these ideas are not always taken forward by decision makers, we will persevere.

Anniversaries are of course a time to reflect but we also must look forward. Seeking to influence at the national level and working with local authorities to share best practice and encourage ambition is a critically important part of our work. But so too is seeking to empower people to have real influence over decisions about their local area. This is a key route for the Association to try to tackle inequalities.

We are also trying to do more work directly with communities to try and enable and support change on the ground.

At times this work focuses on trying to improve processes – such as our work last year to try and influence the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act as it passed through parliament. But we are also trying to do more work directly with communities to try and enable and support change on the ground. We have examples of where we are doing this through Planning Aid for London, our involvement in a project to try and secure new affordable housing in Belfast, and our work in Peterlee New Town. I want us to be able to build on these projects, learn lessons and my hope is that the Association will be able to secure sufficient funding to scale up this important, impactful work to make a real difference to people’s lives and the communities in which they live, work and play.

Finally, I wanted to thank our Trustees and Policy Council members past and present, members, supporters, funders and partners who help make the Association what it is. At times people forget that the TCPA is a small charity with a long and important history, and an incredibly wide remit. We are grateful for all of the support we receive both now and, I hope, in the future.

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