Town planners ensure land is used effectively to meet economic, social and environmental needs. Town planning maintains the best of the past while encouraging creativity and innovation in the development of a sustainable future.
Planners are involved in making both short and long-term decisions about the organisation and development of commercial sites, villages, towns, cities and the countryside, advising the community, developers, local and national government to help them make decisions about development.
Town planners operate at very different scales; from considering the location of major new transport hubs, large energy facilities or renewable projects through to more local issues such as the design, development and construction of new homes, shops, schools, urban spaces, and so on.
The roles that town planners undertake are very diverse, including:
- Working within the planning system (typically for the local planning authority, but also in central government) 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 (see Planning consultant for more information).
- Employed by companies in the built environment sector, such as multi-disciplined practices, large developers, economists, policy advisers, research organisations, and so on.
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. Sometimes, the term ‘town planner’ can be considered to refer to planners working for local authorities, whereas those in the private sector might be referred to as 'planning consultants'. However, ‘town planner’ is a general description that is not protected by law and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has members from all areas of the planning profession.
Town planning is a subject that requires a variety of skills and expertise. Often town planners choose to specialise in a certain areas of work such as urban design or protecting historical sites. Many work across a range of different fields.
The activities of a town planner might include:
- Developing planning solutions.
- Designing layouts.
- Drafting design statements.
- Visiting sites to assess the effects of proposals on the environment and local community.
- Consulting with key stakeholders and other interested parties.
- Negotiating and working with professionals such as developers, surveyors and architects.
- Assessing planning applications and monitoring developments.
- Developing planning policies.
- Presenting at and attending; consultations, appeals, public enquiries, planning committee meetings and court proceedings.
- Encouraging education and awareness.
- Writing reports and other material, explaining regulations or making recommendations.
- Advising on environmental impact assessments.
- Providing advice on how and when to seek planning permission.
- Advising on local planning policy.
- Undertaking specialist research.
- Advising on issues related to transport traffic and infrastructure.
- Advising on neighbourhood planning issues.
Graduates from any degree subject can become planners, however, to become a chartered town planner, a university degree accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is required and/or a number of years’ experience in spatial planning. Chartered town planners 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.
See also Planning consultant.
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