This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best possible experience. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with this. You can find out more about how we use cookies here. If you would like to know more about cookies, or how you can delete them, click here.

2.0 The number of planners in the UK

Return to contents


Quick links
2.1 Summary and key findings
2.2 The number of planners in the UK
2.3 Change over time observed in APS data
2.4 The number of 'town planning officers' in the RTPI membership
2.5 Numbers working in other built environment occupations


2.1 Summary and key findings

This chapter explores the size of the planning profession and the number of RTPI members currently working in it. We estimate:

  • There are around 22,000 planners currently working in the UK.
  • About three quarters of planners are RTPI members.
  • The planning profession is smaller than other built environment professions.

2.2 The number of planners in the UK

Taking an average of annual estimates from the last five years, the APS estimates there are around 22,000 Planners in the UK. Going back all the way to 2006, 9 out of 13 estimates have been within 10% of 22,000 (see Figure 1). From the Member Survey 2017 we can estimate that 13% of these planners work part time.

This clearly does not represent everyone involved in planning as is obvious from the fact that the RTPI has over 25,000 members. Instead it is the number who would say that 'Town Planning Officer' was their main occupation when surveyed. From the analysis for this report we know that this does cover a broad range of planners (e.g. across the public and private sectors). However, clearly this might exclude people deeply connected with planning but working in other fields, for example planning academics and lawyers. Therefore this is only a starting point for assessing the size of the sector.

2.3 Change over time observed in APS data

The APS goes back to 2005 with estimates each year. The margins of error are relatively high for each individual year so any observed trends must be taken with caution. However it is worth noting the apparent dip in England in 2011-12 and rise in 2017-18 (see Figure 1). An obvious hypothesis for the former would be the impact of the financial crisis on development, whilst the latter is perhaps consistent with an increased push towards major new housebuilding.

Figure 1: Number of selected built environment occupations over time

Figure 1 Chart 

Source: ONS Annual Population Survey filtered by SOC10M codes relating to each built environment occupation. Numbers rounded to nearest thousand. Years refer to year ending September that year. See also Appendix Table 1.

2.4 The number of 'town planning officers' in the RTPI membership

We can't use RTPI data to estimate the total number of planners in the UK because not all town planners are RTPI members. However, we can estimate the number of RTPI members who would fit into the APS definition of a UK 'town planning officer'. This is essentially the number of RTPI members who we would expect to report that 'Town Planning Officer' is their primary occupation. All the analysis in this report focuses on this sub-group of the membership. This allows comparison with the APS data.

To work this out, we started with the total number of UK-based Chartered, Licentiate, Affiliate and Associate members, and then removed the proportion we do not believe would fit in the town planning officer occupation.[4] The total RTPI membership is over 25,000 – of these about 17,400 are in the classes listed above and based in the UK. We estimate that around 16,200 of these members are also (1) in employment, and (2) likely to see town planning officer as their primary occupation.

Estimated proportion of planners who are RTPI members

Since we have both the total number of planners estimated in the APS (22,000), and a rough estimate of how many RTPI members would fit into this group (16,200), we can make a preliminary estimate of the proportion of town planning officers who are RTPI members. This gives us a rough estimate of around three-quarters (74%) of planners being RTPI members. Put another way, we estimate that around a quarter of practicing planners are not chartered by their professional body.

2.5 Numbers working in other built environment occupations

The APS suggests that the planning profession is relatively small in comparison to other built environment professions, with less than half the number of architects and around a third the number of chartered surveyors[5]. The APS estimates a total of 53,400 architects; 60,300 chartered surveyors; 43,300 quantity surveyors; 73,300 construction project managers and related professionals; and 24,100 architectural and town planning technicians (see Appendix Table 1).

This is worth noting because it highlights the relative resources society directs towards various objectives. Whilst planners, architects and surveyors share many objectives, there appears to be relatively lower resources dedicated to more planning-specific objectives like public participation, plan-making and strategic spatial decision-making. This may be because these are areas where benefits are diffuse and public rather than directed and available for private capture. These are also the areas which have experienced the highest proportion of cuts in public funding in recent years.[6]

We can also observe temporary dips in the total numbers of other built environment professions starting from around 2010 (see Figure 1), mirroring the trend observed for planners.


[4] We can estimate the proportion of each class currently working as Town Planning Officers using the Member Survey data, which includes information on employment status and employer (see technical report for more details).

[5] The Annual Population Survey occupation 'Chartered Surveyor' appears to refer to land and building surveyors (as opposed to quantity surveyors).

[6] The RTPI is currently developing a position paper on resourcing which evidences these cuts.

Previous ChapterNext Chapter