Local Government Association, Office of the Deputy Prime Minster, Employers Organisation for Local Government
- Professor John Glasson (Department of Planning), OISD:IAU
- Dr Bridget Durning (Department of Planning), OISD:IAU
- total grant value: £15,000
- time duration: August 2003-July 2004
In 2001 the Local Government Association undertook a postal survey of all local authority planning departments which showed that in the previous 12 months 80% had experienced skills shortages and 87% had experienced recruitment and retention problems which had affected their ability to deliver an effective planning system. In response to this the Local Government Association (LGA), in conjunction with the Employers Organisation (EO) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), commissioned the Department of Planning at Oxford Brookes University to undertake research to investigate the skills base in the planning system in local authorities.
The research consisted of:
- a review of relevant literature and published research on the skills base in the planning system
- a postal survey of all local authorities in England
- telephone interviews with thirteen selected authorities
- focus groups of staff and students in planning schools within five higher education institutes
- a postal survey of the heads of planning schools in a further 24 higher education institutes
additional workshop discussions at the LGA/National Planning Forum (NPF) Annual Conference (entitled 'Delivering Planning') in March 2004.
The findings of the research were:
- the planning system in local government has suffered from many years of being portrayed as the problem rather than the solution. There is a need to realise that this stems from changes which have been gradual but effective in reducing the skills base through loss of experienced staff and lack of investment to ensure supply keeps up with demand
- there needs to be an increase in the number of planners either through initial education or through investment in training for entry through other routes. The Royal Town Planning Institute Education Review (2003) aims to increase the number of planners and this may start to have an effect in two or three years. However, many of the skills will need to be learnt 'on the job' and there may be a danger of a minimalist approach to postgraduate education. In addition there are changes occurring in higher education which will impact on the planning schools and potential students, and financial support may be needed to ensure enough planners are produced (In May 2004 the ODPM announced the introduction of bursary support for post-graduate planning students. The scheme will run for two years)
- because of the delayed impact planning authorities need to look at best practice in other local authorities to harness the skills of existing staff and stem problems of retention
- to ensure effective implementation of the future initiatives there will also need to be investment in training (continual professional development) for a wider range of participants (including existing planning officers, councillors and other stakeholders e.g. police). The skills analysis has shown that the existing and future skills needs will be in the discipline skills but also a wider range of 'personal' or 'management' skills, such as negotiation, facilitation, working with the community. Existing planning officers who do not already have these skills will need to undergo training
- the skills analysis also shows the existing and future skill requirement of inter-disciplinary or inter-professional working. The blurring of the professional boundaries already exists and is likely to continue. However, discipline based skills are also important. Some planning schools are already starting to offer dual qualification routes (e.g. RTPI/RICS courses) and further development may be needed through built environment foundation training or 'New Urbanist/Environment-Development-Design' type programmes
In conclusion the study found that there are a number of skills shortages and skills gaps which are causing problems with service provision. Local planning authorities face persistent and long-term recruitment problems due to the lack of planners, both new graduates, and, more problematically, experienced planners. The introduction of the Planning Delivery Grant has caused some stirring of the market but this is leading to a turnover of staff between authorities as they all seek to chase a limited number of potential applicants, and the lack of uncertainty of the grant means the measures being put in place might not be sustainable in the long term. There is also a high use of agency staff especially in London which is causing skills shortages specific to that region.
In response to the findings the a number of recommendations were made:
Central Government and Regional Agencies; Local Planning Authorities; Planning Schools and other skills trainers
Durning, B & Glasson, J. (in submission). 'Delivering the planning system in England skills' capacity constraints'
Durning, B. & Glasson, J. (2004). Skills base in the planning system - a literature review. London: Local Government Association, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Employers Organisation
Durning, B. & Glasson, J. (2004). Skills base in the planning system - survey results. London: Local Government Association, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Employers Organisation
Prof John Glasson
tel. +44 (0) 1865 483401