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Mandy Pearse: The art of writing reports

Mandy Pearse, FCIPR, is an RTPI trainer, former local authority Head of Communications and a PR consultant. She is a Chartered PR professional and Chartered Marketer

For the majority of planning professionals writing reports is a key activity but it can also be a challenging one.

Reports come in many different forms - internal reports, client reports, planning committee reports, cabinet reports, inquiry reports as well as major planning documents such as policies, masterplans, local plans and responses to government consultations.

It’s daunting because many reports will impact on the lives of citizens, are publicly scrutinised and can be subject to challenge.

Councillors and senior leaders in local government will often say to me that they find planning reports long, overly detailed and repetitive.

Inspectors express their frustration at inquiry submissions that set out again all the information that they have already been given including excerpts from government planning policy and the authority’s planning policies rather than focusing on their argument.

Directors and Heads of Planning tell me that they want concise clear reports and that their staff are including far too much detail rather than focusing on the key issues.

When I discuss this with planners they cite three main issues:

  • Lack of guidance - junior planners are not working in the office every day and don’t get a sufficient time with senior planners so they are not sure of what is required.
  • Anxiety at omitting key information - there is concern that unless every policy is spelled out, every representation described and every issue covered at length that the report may be found inadequate.
  • Concern over writing capability- people feel unsure about their writing style, use of grammar and language and in getting the tone right.

If you find your every day writing tasks challenging the Online CPD Masterclass - Report writing skills for planners’ will help you develop your confidence.

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