Last edited 07 Oct 2015

Planning officer

Planning officers are public sector planning practitioners. Planning officers generally work for local planning authorities, involved in development management associated with the local town planning system. However, they may also work in other public sector organisations. Some planning officers are members of the Planning Officers Society (POS) which pursues ‘…good and effective planning practice within local government’.

Planning officers can be involved in a wide range of developments, from small changes to private dwellings through to large infrastructure projects. They must have a good knowledge of the local community, legislation, environmental issues and social responsibilities. Their duties may include:

They may also provide enforcement action, and assist in the development of the local plan. However, a planning officer specialising in enforcement may be described as a ‘planning enforcement officer’, and the specific role of ‘planning officer’ can be seen as a public-facing position, dealing mainly with planning applications themselves.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that decision taking in relation to planning applications:

  • Should be genuinely plan-led.
  • Should be a creative exercise, not just one of scrutiny.
  • Should be proactive in driving and supporting sustainable development.
  • Should seek and secure high quality.
  • Should take account of the diverse character of different areas.
  • Should support the transition to a climate-resilient, low-carbon economy.
  • Should contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment and reducing pollution.
  • Should encourage the use of brownfield land.
  • Should encourage mixed-use development.
  • Should conserve heritage.
  • Should maximise the use of public transport, walking and cycling.
  • Should support health, social and cultural wellbeing.

It is important that applicants meet with planning officers before submitting an application, to assess whether the proposed development is likely to be given permission, what conditions or obligations might be applied, the form of the application required, the timing of planning committee meetings and so on. A fee may be charged for these pre-application consultations.

Planning officers can become members of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). They will generally hold a relevant degree-level qualification and a diploma or post graduate qualification in town planning. They may specialise in certain types of planning applications, such as infrastructure projects or historic buildings.

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