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Analysis Of The RTPI's Code Of Conduct

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 3580 words Published: 11th Aug 2021

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Planning is no longer a fashionable concept particularly after the collapse of socialism in the recent past and which has exerted the influence upon the environment (Evans, 1995). It is the part of land use planning system which used to balance the developments in future in context of economic, social and environment areas. According [2] to Davies, A N, “Planning is the process of setting goals, developing strategies, and outlining tasks and schedules to accomplish the goals and it is a tool for guidance and facilitation for various areas like regeneration and development”.

According [3] to Lewis Keeble, “Planning is the art and science of ordering the use of land and the character and siting of buildings and communication routes so as to secure the maximum practicable degree of economy, convenience and beauty”.

Since the postwar planning system was put into place in Britain, Major changes have taken place during this time in society, the economy, and the political scene – some of which have been touched upon in this rapid overview. In these changing frames, ‘town and country planning’ has grown into a series of different policy areas which gave different directions for the profession. As the profession underwent a number of changes, the development of various acts, policies, frameworks and guidance notes came into existence. According to Evans, B., The British planning has emerged out from particular circumstances like economic, political and cultural as a form of land use control which is different to the emerged systems in other countries.

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The essay analyzes the critical adequacy of Royal Town Planning Institute`s (RTPI) Code of Conduct in other light of ethical concerns which are also an important concerns in planning actions/decisions. It begins with introduction about RTPI`s Code of Conduct, distinguish between ethics, ethical issues and as well as between Codes of Conducts and Codes of Ethics. It then describes the arguments between different authors about ethical dilemmas in the context of planning theory, changing role of professional planners due to confronting of ethical issues/dilemmas and criticism of the RTPI Code of Conduct in different ethical concerns like personal, social and environmental etc because the involvement of political/personal concerns, social reforms and environmental protection/concerns were added to the planning actions/decisions over the time. So it’s really important to analyze the Code of Conduct in their context. It concludes by looking over different ethical concerns critically to find out the importance of Code of Conduct for future in the context of different ethical concerns.

In the British Planning practice system, “The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is a dynamic organisation leading the way in the creation of places that work now and in the future [4] “. The RTPI has its own professional Code of Conduct as last amended on January 2007. The Professional Code of Conduct sets out that how the members of RTPI should behave among their all the professional activities and ethics. It has also numbered clauses which are more detailed, explains the Code of Conduct.

Ethics are defined [5] as “the moral quality of an action or the rightness”. It is important to distinguish the ethics and ethical issues. Ethics are helpful to guide the planners in their daily professional work schedule while ethical issues majorly focused upon the moral correct behaviors and involve conflicts/dilemmas about the right/wrong ends and principles.

Within the planning profession there are codes of conduct (RTPI, adopted 1994) and codes of ethics. It is important to differentiate these: a code of ethics is ‘comprised of visionary statements regarding the normative and ethical aspects of the profession’ While a code of conduct has ‘certain guidelines/regulations for professional behavior including conflict of interest and professional competence’ (Hendler 1991).

The ethics of competence, integrity and equality are the main objectives in the purposes of RTPI`s Code of Conduct among their all the professional activities and Code of Conduct is also giving emphasis to personal, professional and political ethical frameworks.

Planning theory is also describing the ethical dilemmas of different sectors which are like environment, social and economic etc. According [6] to Campbell S & S. Fainstein S., “Planning theory in itself, is a slippery subject and explanations are often frustratingly tautological or disappointingly pedestrian” Consequently it appears as overlap with theory in all disciplines of social sciences and it’s hard to limit the scope of planning. According to William L., planners are torn between public, serving professionals and fellow members. So this dilemma is further complicated by the extension of planning actions and conflicts between the different sectors like environment, social and economic development and these conflicts creates problems not only in planning actions as well as in professionals and in the whole planning process.

The changing role of planners over the time is also a one of reason for the increase in confronting of profession by ethical issues. These changes can be measured from two perspectives as – Change in the planning profession itself over time and changes in the way in which public and clients perceive planning professionals and their profession. Planners have seen in different role models over the time and recently they are seen to be more interactive, exchanging knowledge and ideas with clients and a wide range of other interested parties (Healey 1991). Now planner is recognized as expertise, is more to deal with exchanging ideas/knowledge instead of framing policies and report writings. According to Prior (2000), the current role of planner is seems to be as a mediator between different interests in land development and Forester (1989) also gave examined planner`s current role as a facilitator who is assisting others rather than a technical expert.

Thomas and Healey (1991) also describe [7] planning as a multi-disciplinary field drawing on diverse fields of knowledge. Planners must be able to draw together these diverse fields and co-ordinate agencies with different knowledge and responsibilities.

Every country has its own bodies (Government/NGO`s) for ensuring the equality among different groups in the society. The RTPI Code of Professional conduct under No.2, It mentions the equality and elimination of discrimination in the context of sex, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation in all the professional activities among members & others. In the 1970s, to address the new questions and goals, an attempt was done to broaden them by criticizing the professional code of conducts by Howe, Kaufman and Marcuse. According to them, as they were criticizing the professional planning codes from the UK, Canada & USA, some of the codes in UK have no references to the ethics, and they are just mentioning some general terms related with ethics and in some, more emphasis on personal ethics of individual planners.

The RTPI Code of Conduct also mentions that the members have to keep their personal, private, political and financial interests separate from their professional duties so that they should perform their duty without any disruption and take steps/precautions time by time to keep them separate from professional responsibilities but according to Marcuse (1976), [8] “In most cases, even the rules for telling right from wrong are not clear. Obligations to clients conflict with obligations to the public; following professionally accepted standards of conduct produces results repugnant to most laymen; professional integrity and democratic decision making seem to conflict; the bounds of professional concern are hazy.”

Marcuse also mentioned that the existing ethical and professional standards are often inherently inconsistent, conflicting and contradictory with the profession`s public oriented image. So ultimately they are a weak guide to ethical conduct for practicing planners.

The conflict between the views of elected members and the professional planners is also another dilemma. As elected members have different views [9] compared to planners because members are typically interested in getting votes which can resultant in different views & priorities for a member. So an elected member may have different priorities for developments in district as like social/economic instead of environmental and ultimately it conflicts with the views of planners because planners are responsible for the development of all the sectors and the prioritized issues but in RTPI Code of Conduct, it doesn`t have no references or guidelines for such issues/conflicts between elected members and professional planners. It’s true that planners should act professionally but it is also important not to take the biased steps/planning actions under any pressures of elected members or other pressure groups.

Even According [10] to Brewster R., “there are chances of conflicts between the views between elected members/representatives and the planners working in the local Government and it’s crucial to ensure the successful completion of planning actions”.

According [11] to Friedman, “It may be a biggest problem in understanding and theorizing of planning”, in his paper on planning research and he mentioned the approach of planning research by encouraging planner researchers to identify the actual situations of city politics with planning to address the question of power. “From point of view of planning research and issues related with it, a very little discussion of ethical issues related to planning research has done compared to ethical issues relating to planning only (Hendler,1995)” [12] . While in the criticism of professional Codes of Conduct done by Howe and Kaufman, (1979); Marcuse, (1976) shows that there is no direct reference/link to planning research in these codes, as these codes are for the regulation of planning profession but which is a different activity from research. So planning research is a part of planning actions/decisions which also deals with the same ethical issues/dilemmas as well as to identify various specific issues like related with power, politics etc.

Social Justice

There are significant shifts over the time in ethical judgments which were informed by notions in the context of social and ethical concerns (Watson, V., 2006). According [13] to David Harvey, “The social justice is ideally based upon the principles of equal worth of all, shelter and other basic amenities, opportunities for all and eliminating the inequalities from society”.

The equal distribution among individuals is a simple meaning of social justice (Ernesto M., 2008). The issues of social justice are a prime concern in the context of development, socio-economic aspects. There are number of examples of injustice in the form of suppression, unequal opportunities, inequity etc.

According to (Okin, 1989), “Feminists have complained that the principles of justice do not apply to the family, and thus, cannot secure equal justice for women and children” and he also suggests about the gender neutrality of the original position which will guard against gender discrimination While Rawls notes that the principles of justice apply directly only to structuring the basic social institutions; they do not apply to structuring voluntary associations, including the family.

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The social issues like equality and elimination of discrimination can be eliminated as mentioned by RTPI Code of Conduct and It will also help to maintain the equal distribution of social benefits and burdens of the society at all the levels of Government but the influence of the class and professional background of planners in producing the cultural prejudice in their attitudes and efforts in the planning profession and increase in the social group’s awareness and participation can also affect the professional ethics and planning actions in terms of personal behaviors and time deadlines for applications.

The communities and pressure groups are becoming more aware, demanding so the planners are facing ethical issues which become more important and increased. As a result, planners encouraged to interact with communities/groups but at some stages these involvements/interactions with communities creates pressure on the planning actions and as well as on planning professionals. The increased involvement of community groups was identified [14] by particular Councils as an increasing challenge facing district Councils in the planning actions in terms of creating more ethical dilemmas for planners.

According to Marcuse`s (1976) criticism of the implicit conservation of the ethical discussions and codes of practices which ignores the social values and ethics while the individual actions which can help, remains in the process because of individual concerns as due to their nature and focus on individuals behaviours and neglects the conditions and supports which can help towards ethical concerns. Even According to Wachs (1985), work on planning ethics has focused on the codes and the individual planners’ behaviours is more instead of social ethical concerns in the planning codes of ethics. Healy (1991) also identified [15] the distinction between professional related practice and scholarly practice and different relationships between planning research and planning practice. So she also recognized that scholarly researches as well as planning research are not much in practice.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is a subset of social justice concerned with the environmental consequences (Ernesto M., 2008). As like Social justice, planners are facing the most important change in all over the changes is the environment. The importance of environment has been increased as it is confronted for number of problems and issues in recent time. So now the authorities/agencies are also concerned about environmental justice as like social justice. As economic growth was the main aim of local authorities and the professional planners but recently and even since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the environment and sustainable development have become major issues. This introduces a whole new ‘field’ of thought to planners, namely Environmental Ethics. Environmental ethics can be defined as ”that area of thought and moral discourse dealing with our ethical duties to, and relative to, the natural environment” (Beatley 1994).

There are number of arguments on this point of view by planners and environmental agencies in the light of the increasing importance of the environment and it has lead to an increase in the issues that planners must consider which consequently creates further ethical issues. So like other ethical issues, environmental justice issues are also important concerns in the planning actions and how we can address all these ethical issues and what weight can be provided to environmental issues in planning actions, what issues are more important. Nowadays in the urban forms, the effects or issues related to environmental hazards need more concern as like other developments. So to identify the solutions for these kinds of issues and their prioritization in planning actions, there is no reference given in the RTPI Code of Conduct.


The RTPI Code of Conduct sets out the professional practices and procedures for the planning members to perform their professional duties for the better and safe future directions for society. The RTPI Code of Conduct is particularly only oriented to the members of the planning profession which are working in the planning and development sector to ensure that the decisions should be appropriate and transparent.

As the planning professionals are ensured by Code of Conduct towards their professional services, it can help to achieve the better environment for them and society in the light of those ethical concerns but Kaufman and Marcuse reviewed the Codes which explains the lack of proper referencing to ethics, but it gives only a reference to general terms, They also identified the conflicts between the statements like `Loyalty to public and to the one`s sponsor.

From Planning theory point of view, it is also concerned about the different ethical issues between different concerns like environment, social and economic etc. According to various authors, it’s hard to define the exact scope and limits of planning theory and planning in it and the role of planners is also under such circumstances that the planners are confronted by ethical issues as well as by the field. So this dilemma is further complicated by the extension of planning actions and conflicts between the different sectors and these conflicts confronted by planning actions as well as in professionals and in the whole planning process.

The RTPI Code of Conduct will help to the planning professionals to set out open, fair and transparent planning decisions based upon sound judgments and justified reasons and the Code of Conduct also sets out further Supplementary regulations and Bye Laws about the continuity of professional development, planning aid etc can be helpful to young planning professionals to confront the ethical issues.

From point of view of other ethical concerns, Social justice and Environmental justice are also prime concerns in future planning actions/decisions. As the essay analyses the importance of social and environmental concerns and why they are more concerned in present and future scenario`s so it becomes an important part of such regulations or Code of Conduct to give emphasis towards these concerns. Furthermore, the increase in communities and agencies awareness demands more expectations from professional planners to undertake these concerns as well.

From point of view of Planning research there are no links to the planning research, as these codes guides the profession which is totally different activity from research. So we can not apply the Code of Conduct directly to the planning research. However, The RTPI Code of Conduct guides the professional planners for or encourages the higher level planners to support and encourage other planners to maintaining the professional standards and following the guidelines of Code of Conduct and to deal with the and discuss the ethical issues/dilemma so that they can be further researched by professional planners.

For Instance, if we think about the planning decisions and services without the set of practices and procedures given by RTPI`s Code of Conduct or other regulations in planning field, it can create an un-planned and haphazard situation for the planning professional as well as for society.

So at the last, for the better planning futures and right decisions, we need appropriate changes/developments in the planning system in the form of rules/regulations, such Code of Conducts, policies which can help the professionals to achieve objectives of planning profession. As The RTPI Code of Conduct is helpful up to an extent for the planning profession to engage the planners with the set of procedures and guidelines but in future there is a still need of further additions/modifications in it. So that it can cover existing and future coming gaps in it and can direct the planning professional for better tomorrows and address the other major ethical concerns like social and environmental concerns.


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