918: Vote for me or the blog gets it
Today’s entry is a brief history of the National Infrastructure Planning Association.
NIPA was effectively founded on 1 November 2010 at a launch event held at the offices of Bircham Dyson Bell, which is now BDB Pitmans. An initial steering group turned into NIPA’s first board, consisting of Keith Mitchell, of Peter Brett Associates (now Stantec) as Board Chair, Robbie Owen, now of Pinsent Masons, Board Secretary, Michael Humphries QC of Francis Taylor Building, Board Treasurer, Erica Mortimer (now retired) of CGMS, Ian Fletcher then of Thames Tideway and now of Jacobs, Ian Frost then of Heathrow and John Rhodes of Quod. An initial council was also created, and you can see the members on this web archive page. (The Wayback Machine is one of my favourite web resources.)
At the 2015 AGM the governance arrangements now in place were agreed, so that the Board Chair became an elected position but all other positions remained as appointments (something I think should change). There was an election for Board Chair shortly afterwards where the candidates were myself (not having had a formal position with NIPA before) and Keith Mitchell. I was successful (thank you) and instigated a review of the council membership, which was then carried out a second time this year. I also instigated a rolling review of three of the now nine other board members a year. Robbie Owen remains as Board Secretary and Michael Humphries as Board Treasurer, the only other original member is Ian Fletcher now of Jacobs, and they are currently joined by Anna Pickering of Mace, Sarah Drljaca of Ørsted, James Good of BCLP, Julian Boswall of Burges Salmon and Matt Sharpe of Quod. The ninth place was held by Tom Carpen (then of Barton Willmore) but he vacated it upon joining what is now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (we really need a steer on how to pronounce DLUHC, by the way – dee-luck?).
There was another Board Chair election in 2018 but I was unopposed. There is currently a third election under way where the candidates are myself (for a declared third and final time, although there is no formal term limit), Jan Bessell of Pinsent Masons and Neil Bromwich of Osborne Clarke. Voting closes on 17 October and the result will be announced the following day. A hard sell is not my style but I do hope you consider voting for me to ensure that NIPA retains its two crucial benefits of being run by those with long-term and current experience of the regime, and by a healthy balance of different organisations’ representatives.
Membership has gradually grown over the years without any need for membership drives and now stands at about 500. The annual dinner (this year on 18 November 2021) is our most popular event and pre-pandemic had over 600 attendees. There are regular other events on topical issues – formerly in person and currently online, but it is hoped gradually returning to include an in-person element. On Wednesday, for example, there is an event aimed at recently qualified NIPA members inevitably known as NIPA Nippers.
Our standing with the government has built up over time but has recently accelerated. We had started quarterly or so meetings with the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy a couple of years ago, but when the pandemic hit started weekly meetings with MHCLG and the Planning Inspectorate to discuss how to keep applications going. These have continued, albeit less frequently, and have morphed into discussing the recently embarked-upon programme of reform of the Planning Act 2008 regime. This means, via our recent survey and by other means, NIPA members can feed directly into the review which is very helpful for them and, I hope, the government.
NIPA is going from strength to strength but must never lose sight of being an organisation for the benefit of its members and not just the benefit of its office-holders. I hope blog readers who are not members of NIPA already consider joining (it’s only £75 a year), and those who are already members get involved or continue to be involved so that NIPA can become even more useful and relevant and the Planning Act 2008 regime can be improved for all.