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4.0 National and regional breakdown

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4.1 Summary and key findings
4.2 National and regional breakdown

4.1 Summary and key findings

This chapter explores the national and regional split of planners in the UK. Using APS and RTPI data, we estimate that:

  • The geographic distribution of the planning profession is similar to the overall distribution of the working population.
  • There are around 18,300 planners in England, 2000 in Scotland, 1000 in Wales, and 600 in Northern Ireland.

4.2 National and regional breakdown

All of our data sources tell a similar story about the distribution of planners – in short that it roughly matches the distribution of the general working population (see Table 1 below).

Proportions of planners in each nation and region

The APS does not produce reliable estimates for the number of planners in every nation and English region due to small sample sizes. However, what is probably more reliable is the estimates that 84% of planners work in England with 16% in the rest of the UK. The APS also estimate of the overall working population in the UK, suggests a similar split (85% and 15%). Finally, the APS estimates a similar national breakdown for other built environment professions, with around 85% in England and 15% in the rest of the UK.

Both RTPI membership data and the RTPI Member Survey 2017 tell a similar story of the national picture. They also allow us to provide estimates of the full national and regional breakdown. RTPI membership data shows that of our 'UK town planning officer' group, 83% are in England, 9% in Scotland, 5% in Wales, and 3% in Northern Ireland. The South East has by far the most members in England (18% of the UK total), followed by London (13%) and the South West (11%). The rest of English regions have between 3% and 9% each. See Table 1 below for a full breakdown.

Number of planners in each nation and region

Combining the overall number of planners estimated by the APS with the regional and national breakdown from the RTPI membership records allows us to estimate the number of planners in each region and nation. Taking this approach and rounding to the nearest hundred this would mean 18,300 planners in England, 2,000 in Scotland, 1,000 in Wales, and 600 in Northern Ireland. Taking the same approach to English regions, would estimate the North East to have the smallest number of planners (around 700), whilst the South East would have the most (around 3,900).

Table 1: Estimated proportion and number of planners from each nation and region across RTPI and APS data

. RTPI members1 RTPI member survey2 APS town planning officers3 APS general population4 Estimated number of planners5
Nation Estimated % in each population group Estimated number
England 83% 83% 84% 85% 18300
Wales  5% 5% 5% 4% 1000
Scotland 9% 10% 6% 8% 2000
Northern Ireland 3% 2% 6% 3% 600
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 22000
English region (% of whole UK)
North East 3% 3% 6% 4% 700
North West 10% 9% 9% 11% 2200
Yorkshire and The Humber 6% 5% 4% 8% 1200
East Midlands 6% 6% 7% 7% 1300
West Midlands 7% 8% 7% 8% 1600
East of England 9% 9% 9% 10% 2100
London 13% 13% 16% 14% 2800
South East 18% 16% 17% 14% 3900
South West 11% 12% 8% 9% 2500
Total 83% 83% 84% 85% 18300

Sources: (1) RTPI Member data filtered by 'UK town planning officer' group, (2) RTPI Member Survey 2017 filtered by 'UK town planning officer' Group, (3) ONS Annual Population Survey filtered by SOC10M 2432: Town Planning Officers - figures based on average of 5 years to September 2018 and rounded to nearest hundred, (4) ONS Annual Population Survey, (5) Estimates derived from estimated number of planners in APS and % in each nation from RTPI membership records and rounded to nearest hundred.

Whilst data quality issues could lie behind some of the differences, a few observations may be worth exploring further. First, all three planner-focused datasets estimate that the number of planners working in the Yorkshire region are low relative to the overall numbers of people working there, whilst the number working in London and South East is higher than the overall numbers working there. Second, there appear to be more RTPI members working in the South West of England than would be expected given APS estimates of the overall number of people and planners working there.

However, given that all of our data sources are broadly the same here, in general it looks like the overall distribution of planners likely matches the overall population distribution.


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