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The springboard to a successful and varied career in planning enforcement (and beyond?)

Helen Davis teaches Online CPD Masterclasses on planning enforcement.

Planning enforcement is too often seen as the ‘Cinderella service’ of the planning system. Underfunded, non-statutory, unglamorous… so why would anyone choose to work in it?

Firstly, because enforcement is the foundation on which the rest of the planning system is built. Without it, carefully crafted Local Plans, beautifully designed developments and expertly considered planning decisions are all weakened.

Secondly, for ambitious new planners and mid-career changers looking for their next move, a stint in planning enforcement could be just the thing they need to help them move onward and upward. From my own experience working with other enforcement officers, planning enforcement can be an excellent springboard to a successful and varied career.

When compared to other roles in planning at a similar level of seniority, enforcement officers tend to:

  • Work on a much wider range of cases and involved in major and complex developments earlier than they otherwise would - gaining broad experience in planning very fast
  • Have more regular contact with elected members – developing an understanding of the political process
  • Work more closely with other services inside and outside of a Council – building excellent professional network
  • Work on the most challenging cases – being exposed to abundant opportunities to negotiate better outcomes.

In addition, enforcement is a brilliant place to develop those transferrable skills that are highly valued in management roles and consultancy both in the public and private sectors and beyond. Every day, enforcement officers are developing and embedding their ability to:

  • Communicate effectively and clearly with a wide range of people
  • Manage and diffuse conflict
  • Gather evidence and write accurate reports
  • Function effectively in a fast-paced environment
  • Be self-reliant and risk aware
  • Understand the legislative environment and how it applies to everyday practice.

So, if you want a job that is truly varied then planning enforcement is the place for you.

Where else could your average week include:

  • Taking formal action to secure delivery of a play area at a large housing development
  • A stakeout at a shop unit to see if they are operating as an Airbnb
  • Explaining that 4 chickens and an alpaca does not constitute an agricultural business
  • Interviewing a contractor under caution because they have just cut down a protected tree without permission
  • Calming a highly distressed person by reassuring them that you will be taking action against their neighbours unauthorised and unacceptable extension - but explaining you can’t just knock it down tomorrow
  • Negotiating with an agent to secure improvements to a development and avoid the need for formal action
  • Investigating what is meant to be stables seems to be a small house
  • Serving an Enforcement Notice requiring unauthorised quarrying to stop.

If you want to know what the permitted development rights really say – ask an enforcement officer.

If you want to know which piece of recent case law might be really important – ask an enforcement officer.

If you want to know if those planning conditions you just spent 20 minutes writing are any good (or if you could drive a metaphorical truck through them) – definitely ask an enforcement officer.

If you want to be that ‘go to person’ – become an enforcement officer. 

The RTPI runs two types of Online CPD Masterclasses on planning enforcement in each year I lead on:

  • The Introduction to Enforcement CPD Masterclass is aimed at those who are new to planning enforcement. The masterclass will provide you with an overview of what planning enforcement is, why it is important, and the role it plays within the overall planning system.


  • The Enforcement Handbook CPD Masterclassis aimed at those who already work within or have some experience and knowledge of planning enforcement. This Masterclass explores the role of a planning enforcement officer, and the tools and processes of the job.

These masterclasses offer you structured and flexible learning with 7 CPD hour credit towards your yearly professional development.

Please find the upcoming masterclass dates in the CPD Training Calendar 

For RTPI Resources on planning enforcement, read:

Beginners Guide to Planning Enforcement

Planning Enforcement Handbook for England

You can also find out more about the National Association of Planning Enforcement network here

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