Town Planner

    If you are wondering how to become a town planner, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning planning careers in the building and construction industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Town planners, also known as spatial planners, help shape the way towns and cities develop. It is their job to balance the competing demands placed on space by housing, business, transport and leisure, making sure plans meet the economic and social needs of the community.

    Typical responsibilities:

    plan new housing and refurbishment of existing stock to create affordable, energy efficient homes
    manage transport growth and provide incentives for people to make greater use of public transport, for example planning the introduction of passenger tram systems
    redesign street layouts to improve public safety, control traffic and reduce crime
    develop and manage parkland, woodland and waterways in a sustainable way
    conserve historical buildings, archaeological sites and areas of local or national importance
    rule on planning applications
    enforce planning controls over development that has started without permission
    work with local people and businesses through community organisations and public meetings to listen to ideas and concerns about planning proposals.
    To meet many of these responsibilities, town planners work out the potential impact developments, such as new road building, may have on the social, economic and environmental make-up of an area. This can involve using surveying techniques, geographical information systems (GIS), computer-aided design work and data analysis software to draw up plans and recommendations for local and regional councils.

    Planners may also work as private consultants, representing individuals, groups or companies. It is their role to help clients with planning applications or appeals, and negotiate on their behalf with the relevant authorities.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good town planners include:

    excellent communication, negotiating and presentation skills
    a thorough knowledge of local planning policies and procedures
    familiarity with CAD software and GIS systems
    the ability to research and evaluate data
    good organisational and time management skills
    sensitivity to different viewpoints and the ability to make objective judgements
    good report writing skills
    the ability to work as part of a team
    a commitment to professional development
    the ability to work with a wide variety of people.

    How to become a town planner
    You normally become a town planner by taking a degree course accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). You can choose from a variety of subjects, including:

    town and country planning
    built environment
    planning and architecture
    civic design
    environmental planning.
    It is also possible to move into town planning from a background in architecture, civil engineering or chartered surveying if you take an accredited postgraduate qualification.

    If you are already working in town planning, you can take the Joint Distance Learning Consortium’s MA in Town and Country Planning. The course is open to graduates and non-graduate experienced workers and is run in partnership with the Open University (OU). For more details see the RTPI and OU websites.

    The RTPI has full details of accredited degrees, postgraduate and distance learning courses. LG Careers has details of this role within local government.

    Training and Development
    Once you are working as a town planner, it is important to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. You can do this by applying for membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute. There are various levels of membership based on your qualifications and professional experience.

    The Institute provides a programme of continuing professional development (CPD) which you can use to work towards chartered membership status. To become a chartered town planner, you will need to pass the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). This involves following a professional development plan, completing at least two years’ work experience (one of which must be after your degree) and submitting a report about your experience to an assessment panel.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Newly qualified town planners earn between £20,000 and £25,000.
    With experience, this rises to between £25,000 and £34,000.
    Town planners with team leader responsibilities can earn between £35,000 and £45,000.
    The average salary for a chief planning officer is about £60,000.

    Job Prospects
    Your prospects as a town planner are excellent, as there is currently a shortage of qualified staff.

    The majority of town planners work for the government and local authorities, although opportunities for work in other areas are increasing. You may find work with larger firms such as house builders, supermarkets and utility companies, dealing with their planning work. You can also work for environmental and conservation bodies.

    Your promotion options include moves into senior planning roles, coordinating area or regional policy, or working for specialist consultants.

    Training and experience as a town planner can also open up job opportunities in careers such as environmental management, urban design, recreation management and property development.

    Useful building and construction resources:
    Royal Town Planning Institute
    41 Botolph Lane
    EC3R 8DL
    Tel: 020 7929 9494

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