Planners are at the forefront of balancing demand for homes against the need to conserve green fields, prevent overcrowding and make sure developments are sustainable. Housing schemes can range from massive regeneration or new settlement projects comprising thousands of homes through to applications for single homes.
On most schemes, council staff have to negotiate deals with house builders over how much of the space will be devoted to affordable homes and how much developers will contribute to the provision of infrastructure such as roads, schools and sewerage. It is the planners' job to ensure that housing is built in line with local policies.
Kim Morris, a planning director at consultants Barton Willmore, is working on the Eastern Quarry project adjacent to the Bluewater retail centre in Kent. This is one of the country's largest housing sites, with 10,000 homes under construction.
"Our residential development clients rely on us to persuade councils to allocate their sites for housing," says Morris. "We will discuss the proposal with the council and put together supporting information, which could include assessments of its ecological and transport effects."
John Francis, a partner at the Manchester office of DPP, says: "A lot of work is involved at the very early stages of any project in advising clients on whether a site has potential for housing, both in technical and policy terms. Almost as much of our work nowadays is in mixed projects where housing sits alongside commercial, retail and leisure development."
Tetlow King managing director Robin Tetlow often works for the National Housing Federation and charities such as Shelter to put evidence on the need for affordable homes when local authorities draw up their land-use policies. "The work involves housing across the board. We are working on the Northstowe new town planned in Cambridgeshire," says Tetlow.
The process of winning planning approval has become more complex. Planning consultants typically co-ordinate a team to put their client's case in the best light. "Staff at Barton Willmore could expect to handle work from a single home up to 10,000. Some jobs take six months, others can last 20 years," says Morris.
PROFILE - GARETH BRADFORD, Senior planning officer, Devon County Council
As a member of Devon County Council's strategic planning team, Gareth Bradford's main role is to ensure that major developments, such as new settlements at Sherford and Cranbrook, come together as exemplary sustainable communities. Bradford studied planning as a postgraduate at Cardiff University after a first degree in geography. He now advises on emerging district strategies and policies and leads on infrastructure planning work. "I enjoy the impact my decisions can have, the diversity of the work and the chance to have a say in producing deliverable plans that improve quality of life," he says.