Public Practice

Cass Architecture Lecturer is selected for groundbreaking scheme pacing new generation of planners in local government
Date: 29 May 2018

Alpa Depani, who teaches Architecture at The Cass, is among the first cohort of a pioneering Public Practice programme to boost the capacity of planning departments announced today by the Mayor of London.

17 Associates have been selected from over 200 applicants for year-long placements in leading Authorities across London and the wider South East. The Associates are working in strategic roles to deliver better-designed and more inclusive places, and supporting more proactive planning to tackle the housing crisis.

Associates have been matched with roles in some of the most forward-thinking and ambitious Authorities in and around London. Placements range from setting up councilled housebuilding programmes to shaping masterplans for new gardens towns. Together, the first cohort is forecast to unlock or improve 17,000 homes, create or improve 19,000 sqm of public realm, accelerate the delivery of £26m of public infrastructure and engage over 3,400 people in planning over the next year. 

Alpa Depani, who teaches on BA Architecture at the School, is an architect and artist and a recent Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow. She is taking up the new part-time role of Town Centre Design Associate in the Housing, Planning and Regeneration Team at London Borough of Sutton. She is helping to develop the council’s ambitious growth programme for Sutton Town Centre, with a particular focus on high quality design and public realm. She recently exhibited work from her Winston Churchill Memorial Trust project in a show called Recordings in atrium at Goulston Street.

Filling the public sector planning capacity

Public Practice was founded last year to help address a lack of public sector planning capacity, recognised as the primary barrier to delivering the quantity and quality of homes the country needs. Local authorities are using the first cohort to bring in design expertise at a time when almost half of all councils have no in house design capacity.

The programme is a key initiative of Sadiq Khan’s Good Growth by Design programme, and links to the Mayor’s wider strategies and priorities to tackle the housing crisis and to deliver good growth in the capital. It is specifically referred to in the draft London Housing Strategy and will help to deliver the policies set out in the draft London Plan, including around design-led densification.

The call for applications for the first cohort was thirteen times oversubscribed, with candidates from a diverse range of ages and backgrounds, including planning, urbanism, architecture, conservation, digital innovation, and surveying. Of the Associates that made it through a rigorous and highly competitive selection process, 71 per cent are women, and 24 per cent are BAME.

Read more about public practice and the other associates hereon the Public Practice website

Image: Alpa Depani ( to left of Sadiq Khan at Centre of image) with Public Practice Associates. Photography by Tim Smyth.