Skip to main content

Canny Planners

A review of the workshops for young people relating to local planning issues.

Canny Planners is a venture which developed from the "YES Planning" project which has been running for a number of years. The aim of "YES Planning" is to encourage young people to get involved in a discussion about local planning issues in their area, whilst enabling students to develop their skills of working within the community and increase their awareness of higher education opportunities. This project led to the development of a YES Planning Toolkit which is a recognised resource for working with young people on planning topics. 

The Canny Planners project, funded through the Catherine Cookson Foundation, was divided into two parts. Phase 1 was built around a method for young people to debate a hypothetical and contentious planning proposal, leading to the presentation of a range of opinions in a mock planning committee situation.  Some pupils took councillor roles within the committee, who were then able to vote on whether to grant or refuse planning permission for the contentious development.  Phase 1 had been led by the Cap-a-Pie theatre company, involving 6 of the YES Planning volunteers.

Building on the positive reception that the pilot phase received, ‘Canny Planners: Phase 2’ was developed, which then focussed on the issue of hot food takeaways within local shopping centres.  The two-hour workshop was offered to primary schools in North Tyneside and a total of 6 separate sessions were run, again with the energetic support of the student volunteers.  

A total of 190 young people took part in the ‘Canny Planners’ workshops, ranging in age from 8 – 16 years.  These sessions were supported by a total of 10 student volunteers.  Teachers, young people and students all enjoyed the experience and many felt that they had learnt something new:

“The children absolutely loved it!  A real life context was engaging for them and they were able to draw on what they know in their community to help them make decisions.”  (Primary school teacher)

The Canny Planners project in 2018 has now created a template that can be built upon and that can be adapted for debating other planning issues.  Meanwhile, the YES Planning student volunteer project has grown and is becoming recognised as being part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape's offer to students, due to the invaluable support and funding it has attracted.