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Planning Out Network at Royal Town Planning Institute

Planning Out, is a professional network for LGBT+ planners and friends, which launched in July 2016. 

Planning Out Network -  One Year On:
An Interview with Simon Brooksbank, Planning Out Chair and Co-founderSimon Brooksbank

How and why did you embark on your planning career?

 I joined the planning profession in 2014 because I've always been interested in how the built environment can affect ordinary people and shape society.  Planning felt like a good fit to combine these interests of mine.

 I did a part time masters at Reading University while also working at Boyer.  During much of this time I was also Chair of the Thames Valley Young Planners.

 I'm now working in London at Wandsworth Council.  It's been interesting getting the public and private perspective on planning. 

What skills and knowledge do you think have been key in your various planning roles?

I've been privileged to work in the public and private sector.  This has given me a good perceptive of how the planning system works.  In addition, having worked in London and in the South East region has given me a useful understanding of different types of development in metropolitan and greenfield areas.

What gave you the idea to set up the Planning Out Network, and why do you think it is needed?

Planning Out is about winning hearts and minds in the ʻsecond waveʼ of LGBT+ rights, where LGBT+ people can lead their lives in the workplace and wider society with the same level of acceptance and dignity that straight people enjoy. Despite huge advances over the past 20 years, thereʼs still lots of room for improvement.

The key purpose of Planning Out is to encouraging greater acceptance of LGBT+ issues in the workplace. This has a direct impact on LGBT people's levels of self confidence and life chances. Through having this network, we hope it will help make LGBT+ workers more productive and effective in the workplace.

In the longer term, we aim to encourage more LGBT+ people to consider planning and its related fields as an attractive career choice due to its enhanced reputation for inclusivity and acceptance. This will widen the pool of talent from which future planners will emerge.

Are you pleased with what you have achieved in the last year? What plans do you have for the next 12 months?

We are about to approach our first anniversary of our launch event and have been really encouraged by the positive response we have received.  We now have over 250 members and have had some very successful events including a Parliamentary Reception.  We were also honoured to work with the TCPA where we did a panel on equality and diversity.

Going forward this year and into 2018 we have an exciting mix of events combining a mix of informal drinks and networking events with CPD for our members.

We're always looking to partner with interesting people and organisations across the profession to bring a new perspective to planning. The network is currently London based (as am I), but it would be great if in the future other branches of the network developed elsewhere in the country.

Do you think there is a role for the planning system in sharing the stories and preserving important places of the LGBT community?

Absolutely.  This is a very topical issue.  The closure of night-time venues affects LGBT venues as much as others.

In fact, our next event will be on this topic- on 'Protecting LGBT venues'.  This will be our 1st Birthday event held at City Hall on 20th July with speakers including James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development and Amy Lamé, the Night Czar.  We think this should be an interesting and enjoyable event.

We also recognise that there is a need for greater diversity of spaces for LGBT people from social space provision, all the way to care homes for the elderly.

What advice would you pass on to LGBT planners working today?

In the year that Planning Out has been going, we've been really pleasantly surprised by how much good will we've had from the likes of the RTPI and consultancies who have sponsored our events.  The support we have received from across the profession has been really encouraging.

One of the reasons why we have 'Out' in our name is to encourage people to be themselves at work.  Don't be afraid to be yourself.  If you have this outlook, you will do better in all aspects of your life.

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