Last edited 24 Mar 2021

Town planner

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:

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.

When considering planning applications and developing local planning policy and local plans, town planners endeavour to balance the conflicting demands of different land uses, such as:

They need to strike a balance between development, sustainability and preservation.

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:

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.

The RTPI is the largest planning organisation in Europe with over 23,000 members.

See also Planning consultant.

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