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6.0 Skills

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Effective leadership requires a range of skills. It is essential the next generation of planners develops these skills in order to champion the influence of planning in wider corporate strategies of local authorities. In this research interviewees were asked to identify the skills needed for leadership in planning. Below are some of the particular needs of the built environment professions and other more generalised transferable skills for local authority corporate management positions:

Built environment and local government skills

Viability assessments

Management of political interface

General Management Skills



Creating a vision

Creativity and innovation

Problem solving

Building business cases

Communication Skills

Budget management



Project management

Interdepartmental working

Presentation skills/ public speaking


With their undervalued input within local authorities, planners are not getting the necessary breadth of experience working with other departments such as transport, education, housing and commercial real estate. This is likely to be true of planning departments without a specific Chief Planning Officer role. This runs the risk of stifling the career growth of talented planners.

"It's about enabling individuals to rub shoulders, and all the rest of it, with other people outside, and as you said, with champions, or mentors, or whatever so they can see the bigger picture, see how other people see things, how they see them."

(Retired Chief Planning Officer, England)


Cutting training support can be seen as an easy way to save money during departmental budget cuts. This may be one of the major contributing factors towards reduced mid-career training in local authorities, for example through less mid-career training opportunities such as Masters of Public Administration (MPAs). Participants told us that the pull of the private sector, with better salaries and better structured management training schemes, was a key factor in taking talent outside of public sector work.


4. RTPI to work with stakeholders and partners to explore and support the provision of mid-career mentoring and management training development opportunities for planners.

5. RTPI to encourage accredited planning schools to facilitate Chief Planners and Senior Leaders to provide visiting lectures on multi-disciplinary skills for planning and career development, and input into practical projects.

6. RTPI to investigate an extended version of the current Chief Planners mentoring scheme for young planners which could be rolled-out offering additional opportunities for early or mid-career shadowing and development.

Case Study: Mid-career case study – Haringey Council

A number of the posts within the Haringey Council Planning Service have been created across grades, to enable the post-holders to progress from officers to senior officer and on to principal officer level.

Haringey also seeks to identify officers who have the ambition to progress to management roles within the Authority. The current Strategic Applications Team Leader in Development Management, Robbie McNaugher, is one such officer. After establishing Robbie's career ambitions, which he had set out as part of his APC sometime earlier, Haringey gave him a place on the 2015 Future of London Leaders Programme.  As part of this he was provided mentoring from a Chief Planning Officer within another LPA and access to a range of development opportunities. Robbie was then progressed through Haringey Academy's First Line manager development programme, and given people management responsibility. The course included group work across Haringey and a chance to engage with the Senior Leadership Team within the council including the Chief Executive. In 2017 Robbie was promoted to his current Team Leader position, with responsibility for four planners dealing with major planning applications in Haringey.

Haringey currently have a number of other officers progressing through grades, in higher education on day-release and technical staff being up-skilled to take on professional-level work. Historically, Haringey have not found it particularly easy to recruit high quality, talented planners at higher levels, and thus the decision to 'grown-their-own' was an easy decision to make.

Tribute to RTPI Past President and former Chief Planning Officer John Miller

John Stanley Millar CBE BAarch ARIBA FRTPI, President of the RTPI in 1972/73, died at the age of 94 during 2019. This report recognises the valuable contribution that John made to the planning profession and the role of Chief Planning Officer. 

John was born in Liverpool and after studying at the University there, he worked for Liverpool City Council and Lancashire County Council before joining Manchester City Council where he made his name as a leading planner of his era. He became the first City Planning Officer in 1964 at the age of 39 and formed a department that was full of talent and ideas.

In 1973 he was appointed as County Planning Officer at Greater Manchester Council, where for the second time he built a new and successful department. In 1982 he retired early to care for his wife who had developed MS, and his young daughter.

A strategic thinker, a believer in public service and a professional with a strong ethical code, John was a man of vision and ideas who led by example. A huge number of planners owe an enormous debt to this inspirational figure – indeed around 25 of a professional staff of 100 at Manchester City Council later became Chief Planning Officers in their own right.

His passing marks the end of an era, but he will be remembered with gratitude and affection by all who had the good fortune to work with him and to know him.

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