Town and country planners (also known as urban planners and planning officers) balance the needs of communities with laws about protecting the environment and our heritage. As populations grow, they need to come up with increasingly innovative ideas.
Typical responsibilities include:
- planning for new housing and commercial developments
- designing urban spaces to meet community needs
- checking whether planning laws are being met
- advising on urban regeneration projects
- writing policies on land use and community needs
- consulting with residents and local businesses about how they want land in their local area to be used
- providing advice to the public and developers.
Planning roles are available in a variety of organisations across the public and private sectors. These include:
- local authorities (county, district, borough and city councils)
- central and devolved government
- organisations such as the Highways England and the Environment Agency
- engineering firms and consultancies
- property developers
- full-service property firms that provide planning and development services.
Jobs are advertised on local councils’ and other recruiting organisations’ websites. You could also take a look at industry-specific websites, such as Planning Resource. Remember to read job adverts carefully; in some engineering firms, for example, a ‘planner’ is more of a project management role unrelated to town planning.
The main difference between working in the public and private sectors is that the former will be influenced more by political factors, whereas the latter is driven more by commercial requirements.
Jo Davis, a managing director at Avison Young, began her planning career in local government. She told TARGETjobs: ‘One of the challenges of working in the public sector is planning decisions are subject to whether there is sufficient political will driving the development. Although this was a great environment to learn about property, I eventually felt that I wanted to experience being able to drive decision making from an industry perspective.’
You need specialist qualifications accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) to become a town and country planner. If you don't have an accredited degree, you can study for a postgraduate course in town planning. The RTPI lists accredited courses on its website.
Some employers might allow you to combine practical work with learning and qualify as a town planner while working in a related role, such as planning technician.
Recruiters look for candidates with good analytical and problem-solving skills. Other essential skills and qualities include:
- good verbal and written communication skills
- commercial awareness
- project management experience
- teamworking skills
- organisational ability
- perceptiveness and attention to detail
- research skills
- the ability to work on a number of different projects at once.