Careers: Places for people

Ensuring that the community benefits from development and has all the facilities it requires has been a central purpose of town planning since its early days.

This aim continues to be a mainstay of planning practice.

The need to secure community benefits has become even more pressing in recent years. Public spending cutbacks have placed pressure on mainstream funding sources for schools, leisure centres and affordable housing. Public service providers now aim to secure a cut from developers' profits toward essential services.

The main mechanism for securing community contributions is planning gain, outlined in legal agreements between councils and developers. Usually the local authority negotiates deals on behalf of other bodies, such as housing associations and health trusts, although these organisations often play a direct role too.

Sport England, for example, is taking a bigger role in the strategic planning process to secure its objectives. "We get involved with a lot of big developments," says senior strategic planner Nick Evans. "We have to lever more money into sport. As lottery funding goes down, we are looking at new ways of bringing in finance."

Housing associations also look for planners' help in overcoming problems in getting rented housing schemes off the ground. "They are prepared to take on local authorities and to go to appeal when they may have backed off before. They are feeling more confrontational," says Robin Tetlow, managing director at consultancy Tetlow King Planning.

Tetlow advises social landlords on the affordable homes that have become an increasingly mandatory requirement in most mixed-use schemes. Such work involves more than traditional planning skills. "You need to understand the funding system, which is changing all the time," he says.

At the same time, public services are becoming more proactive about making the most of their property assets. Geoff Wright, a partner at the AIMS consultancy, works with a number of higher education institutions.

"Universities have a lot more control over their own assets because they are now charging and getting a lot more income. They are a lot more interested in using those assets. A university with a very efficient property estate is better able to balance its books," explains Wright.

PROFILE

NICK EVANS

Senior strategic planner,

Sport England

MPhil in Environmental Planning, University of Reading

- What attracted you to planning ?

An interest in buildings, strategic planning and housing pressures.

- What are your main duties?

Working at the strategic planning stage to ensure that sport's needs are recognised.

- What do you enjoy about your job?

We are becoming more proactive with councils in securing contributions for sports projects.

- What has been your career highlight?

Winning planning approval for the Weymouth sailing facility for the 2012 Olympics.


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