Chief planner says government is to examine planning staff shortages

The government has been listening to industry concerns over the shortage of planners and is to commission research into the issue, chief planner Steve Quartermain told a conference today.

Chief planner Steve Quartermain
Chief planner Steve Quartermain

Quartermain was speaking this morning at the Better Design for Better Places conference, organised by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

He announced that the ministry is about to commission new research into skills shortages in the planning profession. 

The MHCLG had been listening to industry concerns over the shortage of planners, he said.

"We are about to commission some research ourselves on exactly what we think the lay of the land is," Quartermain said.

"We are conscious that not only do we need to understand what the skills gaps are but also of the need to build a pipeline into the profession."

Quartermain also announced that the ministry had appointed Andy von Bradsky as its head of architecture.

Von Bradsky has been working as architecture adviser in the department, said Quartermain, but in his new role he "will not only be a specialist adviser to the team at the planning directorate but he will work across government to try and take forward the design agenda in everything the government does".

Also speaking at the conference, communities minister Lord Bourne said the government will be judged in five years' time by how many homes it has built, but in 50 years' time "by how beautiful they are."

The minister said it was "essential" that the numbers of homes built is increased, "but not at any cost."

"The more we build the more important it is that we get it right", Bourne said on the government’s target to build 300,000 homes per annum, "because we need many more homes, but we also need homes that fit into the modern world around them."

The National Planning Policy Framework, Bourne said, "puts planning at the heart of good place-making."

"Communities must shape the future of the places they call home," he said. "Homes grounded in what communities want and need, homes that grow a sense of community and not undermine it, and homes that harness the latest innovation in technology whilst building on the best of what’s gone on before."

Meanwhile, Stephen Kinsella, executive director for land at government agency Homes England, said planners needed to be valued more.

"We have to reinvigorate the sense that working in the built environment is a great opportunity," he said.

"We have to get that message out and we need to make it interesting and exciting. But we also need to value our planners more. It is a tough job being a local authority planners, and we need to find a way of valuing them more."

Last month, Planning published a resources survey of local authority planning chiefs, which revealed that application fee increases are not necessarily translating into budget rises. 

Also in January, a study conducted by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Newcastle University found that Whitehall's austerity programme had reduced local authority planners' ability to serve the public interest and has meant councils are increasingly adopting "aggressively pro-development stances" to attract funding. 

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