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Public Practice and RTPI join forces to call for new proactive role for planning

  • The RTPI has become an official partner of Public Practice, underlining both organisations’ aims to build additional public planning capacity, broaden the diversity of talent joining the profession, and move towards a new, proactive role for planning.
  • The announcement comes as the results of a new survey by Public Practice reveal that local authorities lack vital capacity to deliver on government’s White Paper proposals.
  • Public Practice Non-Executive Director Anna Rose says: “It is critical that we build both the capacity and capability of place making teams, ensuring sustainable growth of the professions moving forward. I welcome Public Practice partnering with the RTPI, planning and planners are central to the success of the Planning White Paper proposals.”
  • Event on the 10 of November will look at future shape of planning, drawing on international perspectives to examine the potential impacts of the Planning for the Future White Paper.
  • Public Practice has launched a call for applications for a new cohort to start placements in April 2021 - applications for both Local Authorities and potential Associates close on 23 November.

Public Practice’s consultation response to the Planning White Paper, published today, includes research revealing that Local Authorities lack vital capacity to deliver on the proposals set out in the Government’s Planning for the Future White Paper.

Public Practice received a total of 55 responses to a survey on the Government’s plans, representing 34 different Local Authorities or public sector organisations. The results revealed a stark lack of resourcing in Authorities, with 82% of respondents answering ‘no’ to the question ‘do you believe your Authority has the existing in-house capacity and skills needed to deliver the proposals set out in the White Paper without additional resourcing?’. The remaining 18% of respondents all answered ‘not sure’, with no respondents confident in their Authority’s ability to meet the demands of the White Paper.

As well as a need for additional training and development for existing Authority officers, respondents indicated that easier and more affordable access to skilled staff was among their top priorities in terms of additional capacity. Difficulties recruiting the right talent were also cited as one of the main barriers to Authorities building capacity in key skillsets. The disciplines Authorities anticipate needing the most to deliver on the White Paper were: Architecture & Urban Design; Digital, Data & Plantech; and Community Engagement & Participation.

This comes as Public Practice’s latest official Partner, the RTPI, calls for vital investment in planning as an essential public service. £500 million is needed over the next five years, the organisation says, to deliver on the aims of the White Paper, and to create a planning system fit for the 21st Century.

Both Public Practice and the RTPI see Planning for the Future as an opportunity to forge a more proactive role for planning: one that delivers on the ambitions of White Paper, but also helps to create resilient local economies, tackle social inequality, and take action on the climate emergency. The organisations are jointly calling on the Government to support scaling the Public Practice model to help level up public planning capacity across the country.

A virtual discussion hosted by Public Practice on the 10 of November will ask the question: what does the planning department of the future look like? The event will set aside debate over the content of reforms to look ahead to longer-term changes in the culture, capacity, and perceptions of the profession. Speakers include Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI; Joanna Averley, Chief Planner at MHCLG; and Kieran Long, Director of Sweden’s national centre of architecture and design ArkDes.

Meanwhile, Public Practice has launched the recruitment drive for its sixth cohort of Associates: built environment experts who will take up year-long placements in the planning departments of Local Authorities and other public-sector bodies, such as Homes England, from April 2021.

Public Practice is again calling for applications from practitioners who can bring diverse skills, lived experience and backgrounds to the public sector, with specialisms including planning, urban design architecture, plantech, community engagement, surveying, housing delivery, sustainability, economic development, public health and infrastructure planning. Interested applicants should visit for information and resources.

The organisation is also crucially calling for expressions of interest from Local Authorities, to help bolster their capacity to deliver on the plans in the White Paper, as well as continue the complex recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and take meaningful local action on the climate emergency.

Anna Rose, a Non-Executive Director of Public Practice and Head of the Planning Advisory Service said:

“Local authorities can use the Planning White Paper as a platform to claim a more proactive, creative and collaborative role within their local areas. If the sector is to be the change that is sought, a commitment to the growth and diversification of place making teams will be required. It is critical that we build both the capacity and capability of teams, ensuring sustainable growth of the professions moving forward. I welcome Public Practice partnering with the RTPI, planning and planners are central to the success of the Planning White Paper proposals.”

Victoria Hills, MRTPI, FICE, CEO Royal Town Planning Institute said: 

“We are thrilled to announce our support for Public Practice and greatly look forward to working together to help build capacity in local authority planning teams. Our two organisations are deeply committed to increasing the diversity of the profession as well as ensuring that planners are equipped to fully play their role in creating resilient, sustainable, connected, inclusive and vibrant places that deliver on the Government’s ambitions. We also look forward to welcoming many of Public Practice’s associates as members of the Royal Town Planning Institute and adding our support to further enhancing their professional development.”   

Finn Williams, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Public Practice said:

“In our experience good planners can work around an imperfect planning system, but a perfect planning system can’t work around a shortage of good planners. It’s the people, even more than the policies, that will determine whether the Planning White Paper leads to better outcomes on the ground. The RTPI’s support for Public Practice is a great statement of the importance of strengthening public planning, and broadening and diversifying the profession.”



Paul Frainer, Assistant Director Strategy and Economy at Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service said: "Since their inception Public Practice associates have been a

core element of our workforce, and have made enormous contribution to a wide range of outcomes in Greater Cambridge. The Public Practice model is a vital model for meeting the skills challenges in 21st century public placemaking."

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