When the first lockdown started in March 2020, the planning law world came to a standstill as the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) suspended all inquiries and hearings. Unlike the courts, PINS took until the summer before it started holding events remotely via Teams and Zoom. In that intervening period, planning chambers and firms became CPD outlets overnight, offering countless webinars with the aim of staying on clients’ radars.

During this time, many clients told us they felt that being bombarded by multiple emails promoting ‘partisan’ events by specific chambers and firms was unwelcome during this stressful and uncertain time, and also that the typical webinar format was invariably overly preachy and not interactive enough.

Out of this was born the idea of ‘Have We Got Planning News For You’ (www.hwgpnfy.com). The concept was to offer a light hearted, informative but also entertaining, weekly update on planning related issues, hosted collaboratively between members of several of the leading planning law outlets with a broad geographical spread across England (Keating Chambers, Town Legal, Kings Chambers, Landmark Chambers and No 5 Chambers). We also thought it would be an opportunity to raise money for charity by encouraging viewers to make a donation to NHS Combined Charities, Shelter or a charity of their choice, instead of the registration fee typically charged for seminars.

For added variety and interest, we decided to have a special guest every week representing a subject relevant to planning. The show broadcasts live at 5pm on a Thursday, with the recording available from the next day via our YouTube Channel and Apple Podcasts. A typical episode is comprised of four case reports in the first half of the show, concerning recent Court or Planning Inspectorate decisions, and then an interview with our guest in the second half of the show. We have a weekly theme, chosen in advance by our guest, which has seen us dress up in a range of fancy dress items, often accompanied by a thematic drink!

We never really thought this would be anything other than a temporary thing during that first lockdown, but fast forward 15 months and over 120,000 views, and HWGPNFY has taken on a life of its own; it has become a mainstream source of news and information in the planning sector, as well as becoming a platform from which to explore and champion best practice and reform in various aspects of our sector through providing exposure to some brilliant guests with visionary ideas, with an audience that includes many of the key influencers in the planning and development industry (including the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, who has overall responsibility for planning, who is a self-confessed regular viewer).

Our guests so far have included: Rt Hon Chris Pincher MP – the current Planning Minster – on the government’s proposals for reform of the planning system; Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, talking about the Church of England’s recently published report, Coming Home on the housing crisis; Lady Hale, former President of the Supreme Court, on the proposed reforms to judicial review; Andy Street CBE – Mayor of the West Midlands and former MD of John Lewis – speaking about how the planning system can facilitate the Midlands Renaissance and stimulate a post-COVID economic fightback; Sir Howard Bernstein – CEO of Manchester City Council for almost 20 years as the city transformed – speaking about how to deliver high quality placemaking; Lord Mathew Taylor speaking about his brainchild, garden villages; Rob Rinder – ITV’s Judge Rinder – speaking about the housing crisis from his perspective as a newly appointed Ambassador for Shelter; Tony Juniper CBE, the renowned environmentalist and Chair of Natural England; Lord Carnwath, the former Supreme Court Judge, and Simon Gallagher, Director of Planning at MHCLG (the country’s top planning civil servant), discussing the pros and cons of the government’s proposals for reform of the planning system; Joanna Averley – MHCLG’s new Chief Planner – giving her first interview in post; Nicholas Boys Smith – the recently appointed head of the new national design body, speaking about his agenda for a new era of ‘building beautiful’; two episodes dedicated to maximising gender and ethnic diversity in the planning and property sectors featuring Charlotte Morphet (founder of Women in Planning) and Priya Shah (founder of BAME in Property) – which have made a real difference to changing attitudes; world-renowned architect Ian Ritchie CBE (who designed the Glass Pyramids at the Louvre) speaking about high quality architecture; and Clare Miller, CEO of Clarion Housing Group – the UK’s largest social housing provider – on the challenges relating to cladding, and scaling up  the provision of affordable housing.

We have little idea what the future will hold for the show, but it’s been a blast so far and a real privilege to help our guests champion best practice and reform – as well as the five of us cementing wonderful friendships with many moments of laughter that have made a huge difference to getting through the many challenges of the last year.

HWGPNFY features Charles Banner QC, Mary Cook, Paul Tucker QC, Sasha White QC and Chris Young QC.