The term ‘town planning’ was first used in the UK in 1906, and in 1909, the Housing, Town Planning, etc Act 1909 first empowered local authorities to prepare development schemes for land. The roles that planners now undertake are very diverse, including:
- Working within the planning system (typically for the local planning authority) helping in the administration and enforcement of the planning process, determining planning applications and developing local planning policy and local plans.
- Working as consultants for clients.
- Employed by companies in the built environment sector, such as multi-disciplined practices, large developers, economists and policy advisers, research organisations and so on.
Planning is not a protected profession, however, the designation ‘chartered planning consultant’ is awarded by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). The RTPI is the largest planning institute in Europe with over 23,000 members.
Members may be:
- Associate members.
- Technical members.
- Chartered members.
- Legal associates.
Chartered planning consultants must have a degree in planning and/or a number of years experience in spatial planning. They must comply with an independent Code of Professional Conduct, hold professional indemnity insurance and undertake continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their career to ensure their knowledge remains up to date.
Planning is a very complex subject and rapidly changing subject and the legal framework is very extensive. Despite repeated attempts to streamline planning, it can be a significant risk on projects, and clients may be reluctant to spend large sums of money on fees until they have some certainty that planning permission will be received. In 2008, The Killian Pretty Review, 'Planning applications: A faster and more responsive system' found that 10% of major developments were delayed by a year or more, and that permissions for small changes to property were a barrier to growth.
For this reason, it is common for clients to appoint a planning consultant on large, high risk or controversial projects to help navigate the system and reduce the risk of failing to obtain planning permission. Planning consultants are often appointed because they have an existing knowledge of the local area, local planning policy, local community groups and other stakeholder groups and they have an existing relationship with the local panning authority.
The services of a planning consultant might include:
- Contributing to the assessment of potential development sites.
- Advising on the likelihood of and preparation of environmental impact assessments.
- Assisting in the development of development masterplans.
- Providing an independent view of development proposals.
- Providing advice on how and when to seek planning permission.
- Preparing and submitting planning applications.
- Carrying out negotiations and building relationships with the local planning authority, local community and other stakeholders.
- Making representations to planning committees and public inquiries
- Advise on planning appeals.
- Advising on local planning policy.
- Assisting with urban design.
- Undertaking specialist research.
- Advising on issues related to transport traffic and infrastructure.
- Advising on neighbourhood planning issues.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Killian Pretty Review.
- Penfold Review.
- Planning permission.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Taylor review.
- Town planner.
- Planning committee.
- Planning officer.