Steve Quartermain has announced his intention to retire. His post has been advertised and he has probably issued his last chief planners letter. I don’t ‘know his last day.
At a time of revolving doors for senior civil service members he has stayed a remarkably long and turbulent time, over a decade.. Like Jim McKinnon the retired former Scottish chief planner I hope its just the start of a new career.
Civil servants job is to implement what ministers want. In this period Ministers have wanted some remarkably dumb and counterproductive things, many of which like the abolition of strategic planning have had to be undone. No civil servant can be judged for that. What his main achievement has been is keeping planning alive, and planning advice respected, at the very top of government. He is universally respected, liked, nay loved, and I count him as a friend.
I do regret the abolition of the post of Chief Planning Adviser – in the past held by the likes of David Lock and Peter Hall. The duel role of civil servants, advising on best practice and implementing change, often run counter. Having strong independent voices reporting directly to ministers, as scientific and medical advisers have shown, is an essential check and balance.
Who will replace him? Who knows? The post is open to international applicants, though when we will see our first Rob Lowe of the planning world I have no idea. It would be great if we did have a candidate who understood how zoning and subdivision systems worked, or even how to do strategic planning now a whole generation of English Planners think strategic planning consists of sitting in a room of your peers from other authorities, whom you hate, and producing nothing for years