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Planning and preparation prevents poor performance

Bob Phillips, MRTPI (Chartered Planner), MTCP (Master of Town and Country Planner), RTPI CPD Trainer.

This well-known mantra is drilled into every Officer Trainee at Sandhurst Royal Training Academy, but what does this have to do with the profession of Town and Country Planning? Well, it’s not as obvious as it sounds, but this is all about project management. Whilst the Army teaches it as an essential skill set to develop, it’s not necessarily part of the town planners’ education in the same way.

When I first became a town planner, the planning policies and planning applications were much simpler, the process involved planners, architects, and maybe an engineer. I’m not old enough to remember a time when just three drawings and a site edge red was enough, but the number and scope of considerations for planning and decision making have increased immeasurably, and this is not a bad thing.  It’s a positive evolution of our profession. In fact, it ensures that the decisions we make about the future of our towns, cities and rural areas are the best they can be.

Whilst it’s easy for us all to acknowledge the importance of a multifaceted planning system, it’s quite a different matter to implement it.  I know from experience how difficult it is to ensure we will not lose our focus in the technical issues contained in a sea of reports, studies and meetings then fail to see the bigger picture and advance the project in a timely manner. I remember as a newly graduated planner, feeling very out of my depth, when faced with chaperoning an EIA application for a strategic allocation with 21 different specialists. This is something that I’m sure all planners can relate to.

Whether we contribute to planning or decision making within the planning systems, managing projects and processes is now a vital part of our role. Of course, this all takes time and it’s difficult to be a town planner AND a project manager at the same time. Focusing on the planning related tasks often does not leave enough time and the project management part becomes just an afterthought. However, applying some simple project management knowledge and skills can really make a difference to our ability to achieve our sustainable development goals.

I believe project management skills are now a vital part of being a planning professional.

Over the last ten years, I have been working with my staff in our office to ensure they had the relevant practical skills, so they would never feel how I did on my first EIA application. I believe project management skills are now a vital part of being a planning professional.

Using this experience, I have been also working with the RTPI Training Team to develop a specific project management masterclass for planning professionals. This short online training explores some of the tools and techniques that will help you maintain your focus while aiming to deliver complex planning projects confidently and meet all your deadlines without being overwhelmed by the process.

If you would like to know more about how to develop your professional skills, join us to the Online Masterclass – Project management for planning that will provide you the opportunity to practice with your peers. You can bring your questions to the live webinar discussion on best practice.

Please search for the next upcoming date in the RTPI CPD Masterclass Calendar.

Completing an RTPI Online CPD masterclass will add 7 CPD hours credit to your professional development.

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