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7.0 Conclusions and next steps

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7.1 How confident can we be about these findings?
7.2 Refining estimates of the size and makeup of the profession
7.3 Assessing the adequacy of the current size of the sector
7.4 The future of the profession

The analysis reported here is only a first step towards understanding the size and makeup of the profession. One of the major goals of this research was to identify information gaps so future research can help develop a more nuanced picture. This chapter considers what we have learned in this report, as well as some of the gaps and our plans to fill them.

7.1 How confident can we be about these findings?

There is correlation across all three of the UK datasets on a range of estimates on planners including demographics, geographic distribution, and employer type. This is not proof in itself of the accuracy of these data in describing the profession, however, it does give us some confidence regarding the findings in those areas at least. This also suggests that RTPI members working in UK planning are likely to be representative of the wider sector.

The other estimates in this report are the best we can produce given the data we have available. This means they should be treated with caution, however they remain useful as the best available estimates, and as a baseline against which to test future data collection. This includes the estimate of the total number of planners as well as all estimates of various sub-groups derived from that. The estimates produced in this report will provide a baseline and can be tested by future work. There is a fuller discussion of methodology and limitations in the technical report, available at

We are undergoing a process of improving our membership data and we will be conducting further membership surveys in the coming years. If you are aware of additional data we have not yet considered please email

7.2 Refining estimates of the size and makeup of the profession

The definition of a planner

To facilitate comparison with the APS we chose to focus all our analysis on a subgroup of the profession who we believe would be likely to self-identify with 'planner' as their main and current occupation. This clearly excludes both planners who are not currently working, and some planners who don't feel this to be their main occupation. It is certainly a limited conception of the profession, however we believe it is a reasonable starting point. In future research we intend to interrogate this in more detail, and to paint a picture of the 21st century planning profession in all its diversity.

Developing more nuanced and robust estimates

The first step will be to identify segments of the profession for which we can secure robust estimates. Given that we believe the majority of planners to be employed in either local authorities or consultancies, this means that securing estimates for these populations will get us most of the way there. Some data already exists for this, for example the Scottish Planning Performance Framework (which counts planners at local authorities in Scotland) and Planning Resource Magazine's Planning Consultancy Survey[1]. We may also be able to collect data on other sectors. Even where data does not exist, we may be able to investigate individual case study areas or organisations to help us to test the estimates of the APS.

7.3 Assessing the adequacy of the current size of the sector

This data does not tell us about the adequacy of the current size of the planning sector and its distribution. Major cuts in recent years have had a big impact on local planning authorities, as evidenced by the drop in planners working for the public sector shown in this report and Investing in Delivery[2], and also qualitatively in Serving the Public Interest[3]. The National Audit Office also recently cited the resourcing of planning as a major barrier to delivering housing.[4]

Research from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) is underway to explore skills and resourcing gaps in local authorities. We hope to build on this and our other research, with further data collection around the UK to answer this question. We also have research planned on the pipeline into the planning profession, to understand how to secure the next generation of planners. We will also be developing a position paper on how planning should be resourced, drawing on evidence of the current level of resourcing and cuts since 2009-10.

7.4 The future of the profession

As discussed above, we have taken a fairly limited conception of what constitutes a planner in this report so as to enable analysis with the available data. However, even more importantly this report has not begun to consider the future of the planning profession. The typical roles and even employers of planners in the future may be radically different from what they are at the moment. The boundaries of built environment occupations may be fluid – as is suggested by the variation seen across Europe in Chapter 6. We also hope to collect information on non-traditional places and jobs planners are working and to anticipate what the profession might look like in the future. We want RTPI to represent the whole of the planning profession, wherever and however it exists.



[1] Planning Resource (2018), The Planning Consultancy Survey 2018.

[2] RTPI (2015, 2018), Investing in Delivery

[3] Slade, Gunn and Schoneboom (2018), Serving the Public Interest, RTPI and Working in the Public Interest

[4] National Audit Office (2019), Planning for New Homes.


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