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What are the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) priorities for planners?

11 September 2015

Cat Goumal and Sarah Lewis

It’s the start of a new school year in the UK and Ireland. Lesson plans have been written, the uniforms are still looking smart, everyone is rested and happy to be back and the children are eager to learn (hopefully).

So how about planners?

How about taking that 'back to school' feeling and reviewing your continuing professional development priorities by updating your professional development plan? Planners work at the crossroads of many social, economic and environmental issues and engage with a wide range of people and organisations to create better places. CPD is vital for all planners to develop and refresh their knowledge and skills in order to be able to balance these often competing demands and to be good at their job.

The RTPI is here to give planners the best support we can. That’s why we have recently carried out a comprehensive review of the learning and practice needs of the planning profession. We have spoken to our members, collated feedback from attendees at our events, surveyed employers, and examined the results alongside recommendations from our policy and research work. The aim is to make sure the Institute's CPD programme meets the needs of our members and the profession, and stays relevant to the current issues they face.

With the help of a member led working group we have analysed this information to identify eight key CPD areas for planners in 2015 - 16. These are:

Without doubt the 'housing crisis' is the most critical and talked about issue for planners working in the UK. However, resolving the housing crisis is about much more than numbers. It is about creating well designed, successful places and communities in which people want to live, that are also locally affordable.

The aim is to make sure the Institute's CPD programme meets the needs of our members and the profession, and stays relevant to the current issues they face.

Planners should also recognise the economic consequences of their decisions, using their understanding of how markets operate to ensure that development adds value by being economically sustainable, whilst balancing this against wider sustainability objectives.

The vital role that planning can play in delivering improvements to health and well-being is also now more prominent than ever. Planning can also contribute to a more equal, inclusive and cohesive society if places, facilities and neighbourhoods are designed to be accessible and inclusive for all. Further, the use of land has an impact on energy usage, either by the impact that the location of development and infrastructure has on demand for energy, or by using land as an energy source.

These key areas of knowledge need to be underpinned by key skills. Planners have a key role in communicating important but sometimes complex information in a way that a wide range of stakeholders can understand and engage with. Carrying out this process successfully involves understanding the political process that planners work within, and should be underpinned at all times by a strong code of professional ethics. This allows planners to act appropriately given the sometimes conflicting requirements of their employer, the needs of the individuals affected, the collective needs of the community and their own personal views.

Here are some other questions planners might have.

When I am doing my next CPD, do I have to study these priorities?

It is not a prescriptive programme, but we firmly believe the eight priorities we have set are the right ones that will address the key issues planners will face and need to tackle in the foreseeable future. These priorities are kept under review and will change as the external operating environment of planners continues to change.

Where can I find learning materials related to these priorities?

Have a look at the RTPI website for more information on these CPD priorities and links to all our learning materials and events.

Does this mean all the other things I have done for my CPD won’t count anymore?

Not at all. Each RTPI member will have their own CPD training needs depending on their personal circumstances, the role they are currently in and their experience. We have identified CPD priorities for the planning profession to guide members to the skills and knowledge areas which we think are key for a successful planner.

Does the RTPI offer CPD events near where I work?

Yes we do. We run over 180 CPD events a year which we hold throughout the UK and Ireland. Again, go to the website for a full list of upcoming events.

Based on these eight priorities the RTPI will design and deliver a range of CPD and learning opportunities for our members for 2015 – 16. Check the website at for newly available materials and events, and those that will be added on in the future.

Cat Goumal is the RTPI Senior Education and Lifelong Learning Officer and Sarah Lewis is the Planning Practice Officer at the RTPI.