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Victoria Hills: Investing in planning

The Secretary of State for Housing and Levelling Up, Michael Gove, has unveiled a 'long-term plan for housing' in England. As well as consultations on major planning issues, including operational reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, permitted development rights, and plan-making reforms, Michael Gove announced plans to launch a £24 million fund to clear 'backlogs' in the planning system. This included £13 million for additional planning advisory services in growing areas.

It's clear to see that the RTPI’s repeated case for investing in planning is being noticed. In September 2022, we reported that Local Authority net expenditure on planning experienced a 43% decline from 2009 to 2020, leaving town and country planning services across England under immense pressure. This lack of resources and budget reductions have created a vicious circle, making it challenging for local authorities to attract and retain professionally qualified planners.

It is therefore encouraging to see that some of these issues have been acknowledged in the Secretary of State's recent speech, as well as confirmation of plans to raise fees for planning applications. The fees for major applications in England will increase by 35%, while others will see a 25% increase. Crucially, the government intends to tie the increase to inflation, as suggested by the RTPI, and protect planning services within council budgets.

It is therefore essential that – as well as adequate resourcing – our planning system is stocked with qualified and trained professionals.

Well-resourced local authorities have the potential to transform areas for the better, improve the quality of life for residents, and drive sustainable development and regeneration. It is therefore essential that – as well as adequate resourcing – our planning system is stocked with qualified and trained professionals.

So, what are we doing to support this requirement? Well, in addition to promoting our fabulous town planning apprenticeships, we’re working hard across the sector to ensure a continuing pipeline of qualified planners enters into the profession. In May, with a grant from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, we increased the size of the bursary from £2,000 to £5,000 in England, covering for example up to 50% of the cost of the student’s university fees.  

A similar scheme in Scotland has also been recently announced through funding provided by the Scottish Government. We are also supporting the pathways to planning scheme being developed by the LGA Planning Advisory Service to dovetail into the RTPI Apprenticeship programme. In Wales, we continue to work with partners to explore the much needed apprenticeship scheme.

We are always working to attract diverse talent into the profession, and I therefore want to extend my warmest congratulations to each and every student who will soon receive their A Level results. This is an exciting moment in your lives, and I wish you all the best as you embark on your next journey.

Whether you choose to venture straight into university or take a well-deserved break, remember that the planning profession offers rewarding and impactful opportunities to make a difference to communities, the environment and so much more. I strongly encourage anyone considering a career in planning to explore the funding schemes and apprenticeship programmes the RTPI has on offer. We’ll be here to support you on your path to becoming future planners.

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