Government considering senior staff-sharing to boost councils' planning skills gap, says Malthouse

Councils could have to share senior staff in an attempt to tackle a growing skills shortage and lack of resources in public sector planning, the housing minister has said.

Planning and housing minister Kit Malthouse
Planning and housing minister Kit Malthouse

Kit Malthouse told an audience at a Local Government Association conference this morning that the government was considering a "helicopter" model, whereby senior planners would be made available to local authorities dealing with particularly large or complex applications.

"I recognise that, for many local authorities, planning capacity is an issue," he said. "Any time you hire a senior planner they get nicked by the private sector."

Malthouse referred to recent initiatives, such as the planning apprenticeship scheme announced by the Royal Town Planning Institute last week and councils' ability to increase application fees by 20 per cent if the proceeds are ringfenced for planning work, as evidence the government was working to tackle the problem.

The minister said discussions were taking place with the Treasury about making more resources available but that consideration is also being given to ensuring "regional floating planning capacity".

He said: "There aren’t that many local authorities that get many complex applications.

"We’re having a think about what a model of ‘helicopter’ senior planning might look like, particularly if you’re looking at garden villages or large extensions to your town."

Speaking at the same conference, Malthouse suggested that the government could be willing to offer council's flexibility in meeting the requirements of the housing delivery test to ensure that new homes adhere to high design standards.

Last month, the government’s chief planner Steve Quartermain announced that the government would be commissioning research to examine a skills shortage in the planning profession.

Quartermain later told Planning that the government is still assessing the impact of the 20 per cent planning application fee rise and is considering a survey of councils about planning resource levels.

Malthouse has confirmed that he is to head a list of prominent speakers at this year's National Planning Summit. For further information and to book your place, click here. 

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