The Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland

Convenerís message

October 2008


Every generation has its successes and its failures, and every generation does unthinking things that later ones regret. As we work to improve the Scotland our kids grow into, we need to stop, look and listen.Look at our cities today, their centres, their landscape setting, the small towns, the suburbs. Too much has been dumped on them that is nowhere near good enough. Thereís too much depression-inducing nonsense that people donít deserve. Iím not talking about buildings. Iím talking about spaces. Beautiful spaces are stowed out with the turkey twizzlers of transportation. Roadsigns have a triumphal dominance Mussolini might have envied, railings would shred you alive if you were rammed against them.Light controls, stripes, chequers and crosshatches shout for attention.All the paraphernalia of this forced makeover, all the bumps, barriers and chicanes, have rebranded our places in the image of Formula One.It is a world where thought and perception have no room to grow. Good behaviour? Pride of place? Heritage? Tourism? Forget it. This stuff is mindless.


As a planner Iím not just interested in healthy places. I want reduced energy use and Iím one of the advisers to the Climate Challenge Fund.I look for prudence and elegance in the public realm, and many places demonstrate this admirably.But not all.Look at the vast areas of new interchanges, small roundabouts replaced by prarie-style traffic junctions, small crossings replaced by vast sprawling gyratories.Every new housing development seems to be hung with a trophy roundabout like an oversized earring. And around all these artefacts new lighting columns spring up in all directions.Who pays?


In the Netherlands, Hans Monderman found that less is more. As a traffic engineer he showed that traffic and pedestrians alike can move faster and more safely without all this stuff.Baltimoreís Ted White writes ďwithout the sense of entitlement that a green light engenders, drivers are cautious, patient, respectfulóself-policed with a collective congeniality. And while it seems counterintuitive that fewer safeguards could make the roads safer, these alterations to traffic signage are being implemented with surprisingly positive results that are improving both safety and traffic flowĒ.Itís a lesson youíll find in Shared Space projects from Craigmillar to Kensington High Street and around the world.Give way.


How to carry forward public-good professionalism to a new generation was a topic when the Scottish leaders of the architects, civil engineers, surveyors, planners, lawyers and actuaries met round a table the other day.A small dinner was hosted by RICS, and we were able to compare the organization and charitable status of our various institutions, and their hopes for inspiring new aspirants to work of long-term value.Last month I mentioned efforts to involve youngsters in the identity of the places around them, and Iím glad that with support from professions, the Saltire Society and the Scottish Civic Trust and the curriculum for excellence at Learning & Teaching Scotland will pull together on this, building on initiatives like the Trustís PhotoArch and Landscape Forumís PlaceBook Scotland.


-Roger Kelly

Roger Kellyís planning website is at


Roger Kelly convened the Royal Town Planning Instituteís Scottish Executive throughout 2008.

This message appeared in the October edition of the Scottish Planner

later messages: December 2008

previous messages: August 2008June 2008April 2008January 2008

Review of the year 2008

Roger Kelly on the context of planning reform June 2009