Since our last salary survey in 1999, the planning market has changed beyond recognition. Planning is now recognised as a crucial area of professional activity in meeting society's aspirations and is seeing a resurgence of interest as a career.
Yet many in the sector feel that their long hours and hard-won expertise are still under-appreciated. It is clear that there are huge differentials both in workloads and the rewards on offer. But with little reliable information to go on, morale-sapping rumour and suspicion abound.
To fill the gap, Planning launched a survey of pay and conditions in the sector in February sponsored by specialist recruitment consultancy Cobalt. More than 900 planners responded to our invitation to complete an online survey form. Returns were analysed by communications company Camargue, guaranteeing confidentiality.
Around 80 per cent of respondents were RTPI members and 44 per cent were women. The exercise attracted a particularly good response from younger planners. More than half the replies were from people under 35, 60 per cent had less than ten years' experience in planning and 59 per cent had no managerial responsibility.
Council planners accounted for 62 per cent, of whom more than half were engaged in development control and almost a third in forward planning. Staff working in planning or related consultancies made up almost a quarter. The rest included a reasonable sprinkling of planners from other private companies, central government departments and agencies and regional bodies.
Our analysis offers a useful snapshot of planners' earnings, benefits, working hours, responsibilities and aspirations across a range of areas, age and experience, employer types and salary bands. Around 250 respondents offered some often pungent views on working in the sector.
The results are sometimes disquieting. The survey reveals fears of wage freezes or cuts, unfair differences between employers and a widespread feeling that salaries do not reflect the demands and importance of the job. In particular, 18 per cent of planners are sufficiently discontented to be actively considering another career path. But there is optimism among the gloom.
Perhaps one comment sums up the prevailing mood: "Planning is a stimulating, challenging and exciting career swamped by political hesitancy at both national and local level. But opportunities abound for those who can stand the pace."