New year, new passion and purpose: my NIPA story

11 January 2023

Gideon Amos OBE
Director - Amos Ellis Consulting Ltd

As January’s door opens and we look forwards into 2023, I’m seeing a lot of predictions and opinions about the year ahead. Of course it will be different. But as an infrastructure professional and planner some things remain the same – we continue to face huge challenges across climate, energy and sustainability and the economy and that’s just for starters.

The big infrastructure issues haven’t gone away or been solved. Far from it – and, if anything, record temperatures across Europe this month are highlighting the immediacy of the problem. This is my NIPA story and my assessment of why it’s never been more important for our sector to step forward, to step up and to help enable the solutions we all need.

Like many of my colleagues at the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA) I’m passionate about what I do. I’ve worked across infrastructure for nearly all of my career in some shape or form and I’ve seen it from several perspectives. Today, I’m an independent consultant pulling together, contributing to and reviewing major applications. Previously I was a Planning Inspector. And I’ve been lucky enough to have had roles helping to drive the national infrastructure and planning agenda – such as Chief Executive of the Town & Country Planning Association and as a UK Infrastructure Planning Commissioner.

Infrastructure planning matters plus it’s a great place to be for anyone wanting a purposeful professional career.

The need for change, innovation and adaptation across infrastructure to achieve more sustainable solutions for living is evident. I find it fascinating being part of a peer group leaning into this challenge and deploying all possible skills and best endeavours to make a difference.

When I was invited to write my NIPA story, I was asked what I would say to my 21-year-old self about getting into infrastructure planning. The older – and a little bit greyer me would say something like: “Infrastructure planning is a lot more important than the way you see it right now!”

The fundamental importance of infrastructure resonates with others I speak to, whether within NIPA and our industry or outside of it.  We all got involved because we wanted to effect change and do things with real and positive impacts for the built and natural environments. But the urgency of what we do and the importance of what we enable has gone off the scale. ‘Climate emergency’ wasn’t a thing when I was in my twenties, the world was waking up to the hole in the ozone layer and the newly devised concept of ‘sustainable development’. Now the evidence of the impacts of human behaviour on the planet is everywhere and self-evident. Importantly though, we now understand it better and so have a better opportunity to do something about it.

Using the experience I’ve gained through my career to help drive that change is what motivates me. I think it’s what motivates others too and I certainly see that passion and determination in many of the younger infrastructure professionals and new entrants into the industry.

If I think back to how it all started for me, I dove into the infrastructure field when I recognised that the homes and communities which as an architect, I’d been involved in designing and planning, while they could tread lightly on the land and protect our environment, could only be genuinely planet positive if we revolutionised our approach to the energy they use and the transport that connects them. That revolution is now underway but it needs to go faster.

So as we get used to a still young new year, while there is continuity in the challenge we all face to decarbonise and to live closer to that ‘one planet’ life, as a country we’re going to have to ramp up the pace – if we haven’t done so by this time next year we will have failed future generations and in our responsibilities.

So welcome to 2023. This is my NIPA story. I hope some of the things I’ve touched on resonate with you and, importantly, might help anyone reading this and thinking about a career involved in infrastructure planning and delivery to jump right in. It might also encourage you to look into what NIPA can offer you – whether you’re an early practitioner or have been in the game a bit longer – I thoroughly recommend it.

Here’s to making 2023 a year of making the progress we all need to see!