Three-quarters of Local Planning Authority officers in Wales felt overstretched in their work, according to a Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) survey of 209 planners in Wales produced as part of its Big Conversation report.
The age of social media has worsened the issue, creating an environment of insults and misinformation. 58% of respondents said social media had an effect on their wellbeing.
Respondents described hostile and aggressive phone calls and emails from the public. The survey found that the ‘relentless’ complaints and criticism are often vitriolic and personal.
Working within these conditions is taking its toll on the profession, which is struggling to recruit and retain staff. Around 10% of respondents said they were looking to move out of planning. That figure jumped to 15% when respondents were working for Local Planning Authorities.
The RTPI has launched a wellbeing helpline across the UK as the first step in responding to this desperate situation. The Planner, the Institute's official magazine, will broaden this research out to the UK through its annual careers survey.
Susan Bridge, President of the RTPI in 2023, said: “We don't believe this issue is limited to Wales, as we are hearing the same concerns across the UK.
“Our helpline will be the first step to assisting our members, however, it is widely recognised that Local Planning Authorities and the wider public sector are struggling to meet expectations. More must be done to provide adequate resourcing to the planning system, alleviating the pressure on planners.”
Roisin Willmott, Director of RTPI Cymru said: “We launched our survey last summer out of concern for the wellbeing of planners in Wales. Our findings are troubling but expected. Continued budget reductions are leading to unmanageable workloads, insufficient staff, and overstretched workers, which will ultimately leave an indelible mark on our planning system.
“We’re encouraging all those involved to consider the report and take action to ensure the planning system and profession are able to do the vital work asked of it.”