Government appoints new chief planner

By Alia Khan, Consultant 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has appointed Joanna Averley as its new chief planner. She is the first female chief planner and assumes her post from September.

Averley joins Whitehall from the Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), where she was the deputy chief executive as well as design director at the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). She spent two years as head of urban design and integration at High Speed 2 Ltd. Before that, she worked for Transport for London, leading on the housing and planning programme Crossrail 2.

Christopher Pincher, the housing minister welcomed Averley to her post and tweeted that her ‘experience and fresh thinking will help to ensure the planning system delivers the homes we need, now and in the future’.

Commenting on her appointment, Averley said, “We have many challenges to address over the coming months and years – how we meet the needs of our communities in delivering good quality homes and neighbourhoods, underpinning the economy and jobs, delivering sustainable patterns of growth, addressing the climate crisis and adapting to the realities of the pandemic and its consequences, planning and planners have a vital role to play – a creative, proactive approach and long-term thinking will be at the heart of bringing positive change for all.”

Averley’s priorities appear to be closely aligned to those of Jack Airey, the recently appointed special adviser for homes and planning and the driving force behind the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBB). If any doubt existed on the likelihood of change to the planning system with beauty at the centre of it, the appointment of Averley and the pandemic have definitely confirmed that an inevitable change will occur and major reforms in the planning system are expected.