The leadership role of creating better places

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This year, the Heads of Planning Conference in Scotland [HOPS] conference focused on leadership. The conference, hosted in Aberdeen, brought together leaders of the planning profession from local authorities across Scotland, national parks, Strategic Development Plan Authorities, members of Scottish Government and the RTPI. Three key themes emerged throughout the proceedings:

  • Clear values driving the purpose of how the profession organises to shape places, engage a range of communities and manage organisations
  • Credibility, confidence and influence through the ethics, professionalism and positive actions of planning
  • Creativity and resilience as resources to harness within the profession and engage others in the process of shaping better places


Day 2 of the conference developed the theme of leadership from the perspective of engagement with the political communities, and the Corporate Teams of public sector organisations. This was followed by a set of parallel workshops facilitated by A&DS with the Academy of Urbanism. Using Union Terrace Gardens as a case study, the workshops explored aspects of leadership in placemaking relating to:

  • Responsiveness and accountability: shaping change or following
  • Big idea regeneration and leadership
  • Competitiveness, place and leadership
  • Form follows finance
  • Participation, collaboration and leadership

The workshops were informed by a set of provocation papers* which draw together research and practice challenges for place leadership. A panel of experts delivered responses to the provocations to facilitate debate. The panel included:

  • Martin Crookston, A&DS Board member
  • Kevin Murray, Chair Academy of Urbanism
  • Sarah Chaplin, Director, Academy of Urbanism
  • Tom Bolton, Senior Policy Advisor, Centre for Cities
  • Judith Ryser, Urban Thinker

Jan Gehl provided a video interview provocation based on the principles of his new book ‘Cities are for people’, which emphasises the need for proactive leadership to deliver better places in a changing world. Which you can find to the right of this page.


The workshops identified a series of short, medium and long term actions which will be taken forward by HOPS over the coming year.
Overall, the conference was a lively, informative and informed event, with positive challenges and a commitment to action around the issue of leadership in the placemaking process, and sets a positive basis for building better places in Scotland.

*The provocation papers are available for download from the links above


Place and leadership

The cross-party group of the Scottish Parliament on Architecture and the Built Environment were presented with the findings of...

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