Government must recognise planners' role in the community

In the past few years we have been bombarded with government reviews by Barker, Egan, Lyons and Stern, all of whom conclude that planning is crucial to the community's well-being and viability. Yet the message from our salary survey is that employers are ignoring planners' importance.

The findings are alarming. Nearly one in five planners are considering moving out of the profession, while a similar proportion received no pay rise last year. Almost a quarter receive no help from employers with their training or professional development. This is a ridiculous state of affairs. It is akin to the stupid notion that results in employers refusing to train people for fear they will move. The real issue is that failing to train staff means that their performance will suffer. Refusing to help with professional fees is part of this syndrome.

Local government has a palpable lack of corporate and political leadership, but this is not just shortsightedness. The government's target culture has sparked a war of attrition in many planning departments, with the result that pointless bureaucracy and box-ticking prevails over building tomorrow's communities.

It is not always that great in the private sector either. The survey uncovers a number of complaints from planners in multidisciplinary firms about their views being ignored, while architect and engineer colleagues not only earn more but are given more respect.

Yet with sustainability, climate change and the myriad other problems the country faces, there has rarely been a more important time to stand up for planning. Thankfully, many in the profession still hold fast to its ideals.

For its part, the profession needs to look at how it communicates, seek out the positive results it has achieved and convey them without jargon. Our corporate and political leaders must stop viewing planners as second-class citizens. A start would be to pay them the best rates the built environment professions can offer. If they are taking decisions with consequences for several generations, surely this is worth paying for?

Huw Morris is editor of Planning magazine.

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