Headlines: March 8th, 2005

Planners with an interest in sustainable communities will soon be able to access up to date training via their desktop computers. The University of the West of England, in Bristol, has won a contract to create a new course in spatial planning in line with Government policies on sustainable development.The University’s Faculty of the Built Environment has been given a quarter of a million pounds of Government funding to develop the course, which will be delivered by distance learning to existing planners as part of their continuous professional development. It will mean that for the first time planners who want to enhance their skills in key areas will not have to attend a college or university.

The new web-based course is aimed at working planners in the statutory, private or NGO environments. It will focus on spatial planning, helping to define it, and drawing on good practice in this country and from Europe. It will also look at the techniques needed in the new planning system. It will be in place by the first term of the academic Year 2005-2006.

The Planning Minister Keith Hill said the course would be a major development in training for planners at a time when the government had announced a raft of major changes to the planning system that would lead to a culture change in planning aimed at designing and creating the sustainable communities of the future.

“In our new policy statement, Delivering Sustainable Development, we have asked planners to move away from traditional land-use based planning and now we are backing this up by giving them the tools to improve their understanding and skills,” he said.

Janet Askew who is leading the project for UWE said the course would be affordable as well as accessible, with each credit costing 350 pounds or 250 pounds if the planners chose not to be examined. “The most exciting part for the university is that UWE will be helping to define new concepts in planning with practitioners, putting us at the forefront of this major shift in the way planning is carried out and perceived in this country,” she added.