Social enterprise bids to tackle public-private planning skills gap

A social enterprise that will place planners in strategic roles within local authorities in London and the South East has launched today with the aim of shaping places for the public good.

Planners: 96% of London boroughs say they require more planning and placeshaping skills
Planners: 96% of London boroughs say they require more planning and placeshaping skills

In a statement, the new organisation - Public Practice - said that a group of planners, architects and urbanists would be placed in year-long placements in strategic roles within local authorities.

"Authorities will be offered a simple and cost-effective way of accessing a new pool of talent, as well as benefitting from shared research and learning," the statement said. It said that the scheme would initially operate across London and the South East, before "potentially scaling nationally".

"Associates" placed in roles within local authorities will receive "industry-leading training and mentoring and spend 10 per cent of their time taking part in collective research and development to be shared across the sector", according to the statement.

The statement said that Public Practice has been developed through the London mayor’s ‘Good Growth by Design’ programme and established as a social enterprise with six founding partners - the mayor of London, the Local Government Association, Future Cities Catapult, British Land, Berkeley Group and Peabody.

The social enterprise is intended to bridge a "longstanding and widening skills gap" between the public and private sectors, "recognised as the primary barrier to delivering the quantity and quality of homes the country needs", the statement said.

According to the statement, 96 per cent of London boroughs say they require more planning and placeshaping skills, but 100 per cent have difficulty attracting appropriately qualified or skilled practitioners.

The initiative’s longer-term aims are to "transform perceptions of public planning, build the public sector’s capacity to deliver more homes, and ultimately improve our everyday built environment", the statement said.

Public Practice chief executive officer Finn Williams said: "Good public planning shapes the built environment for the public good. But the status of planning feels like it has reached its lowest ebb at a time when it is needed the most.

"We hope Public Practice can help transform perceptions of the profession, and find a new purpose in public planning."

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