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1.0 Introduction

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1.1 Research Aims
1.2 Methodology

Despite its importance to society, there has been relatively little evidence published on the size and structure of the planning profession in the UK. This is not just an academic issue – there are huge environmental, social and economic issues arising from the way we control land from the housing crisis to climate change. To ensure we can rise to meet these issues, we need to know that the expertise is in place. This makes understanding the size and structure of the planning profession crucial to informing our response.

This research explores the UK planning profession through secondary analysis of data from RTPI and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It provides the best estimates to date of the size and makeup of the profession and identifies gaps in available knowledge.

This is just one stage in a programme of work which will consider the profession in more detail as well as the level and adequacy of resourcing of public sector planning, the pipeline into the profession, and the diversity of the profession as it is now and as it could be in the future.


1.1 Research Aims

  1. Estimate the size of the planning profession in the UK.
  2. Estimate how the profession is distributed, for example by employer and demographics.
  3. Determine how useful existing data on the profession is and identify knowledge gaps.

1.2 Methodology

The analysis reported here is based on secondary analysis of four sources of data on the extent of the planning profession across the UK.[1]

  1. The Office of National Statistics' Annual Population Survey (APS), which is the most robust source of workforce statistics at the UK level.
  2. The RTPI Member Survey 2017 (filtered for 'UK town planning officer' group).
  3. RTPI membership records (filtered for 'UK town planning officer' group).
  4. The European Labour Force Survey (EU LFS), which provides workforce statistics for countries across the EU.

As far as we know these are the only sources of quality data relating to the planners across all sectors and the UK. For each area of interest we report on and compare the results of each of these datasets. More detail on the methodology is available in the technical report, along with a full set of tables available at

The Annual Population Survey (APS)

The APS is drawn from the Labour Workforce Survey plus an additional boost, ending up with a total sample of about 300,000 households. The survey randomly samples addresses, and asks the head of the household to report information about all the individuals who live there. It is published by the ONS every year, reporting on the period of October-September. This series goes back to 2005. This data is particularly useful as (1) it is high quality sample published by ONS, and (2) it gives an indication of the size and makeup of whole planning profession rather than just RTPI members.

One of the questions asks about the occupation of everyone in the household[2]. Participants must pick from a list covering 369 different occupations, grouped into 90 Minor Groups, 25 Sub-Major Groups, and 9 Major Groups. '2432 Town planning officer' falls within the Minor Group 'Architects, Town Planners, and Surveyors'. Other built environment professions are also included.

We believe the APS is the best available source of statistics on the whole planning profession, however there are issues with using the survey to analyse professional planners, including a relatively small sample size, and a somewhat limited definition of what constitutes a planner (it only includes people who would self-identify 'town planning officer' as their main occupation). In order to minimise the chance of reporting erroneous results, we have generated our estimates by taking an average of the estimates for each of the five years to September 2018, rather than using 2018 figures. We have also rounded estimates to the nearest hundred.

RTPI Member Survey 2017 and RTPI membership records

The RTPI holds two main sources of data on its membership.

  1. Our membership records. All reference to membership records in this report relate to the membership as of January 2019.
  2. Our 2017 Member Survey. This is reasonably representative of our membership as a whole, thus enabling us to use it to make predictions about the wider membership.

For this report, we filtered both RTPI datasets to limit analysis to groups we believe would be likely to self-identify with 'Town Planning Officer' as their main occupation. This mainly involved removing those from outside the UK, those in membership classes we believe to be unlikely to identify as 'town planning officers', and for the Member Survey those whose responses indicated they are not currently working in planning.[3] Due to this filtering, estimates derived from RTPI data may vary from estimates published elsewhere.

The EU Labour Force Survey

Published by the EU Commission's EUROSTAT, this survey collates information from Labour Force Surveys carried out in each EU member state. It provides data on individual states as well as EU totals.

[1] See further discussion on each dataset and the filtering process below and in the technical report,

[2] ONS, SOC2010 Classification, Main Job.

[3] See further discussion the filtering process in the technical report.

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