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Future Planners Project Report

Research Project

This research paper was commissioned by Scottish Government and its scope agreed at the High-Level Group for Planning Performance. The remit of the group includes supporting improved planning performance and linking performance with planning fees. The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) co-chair the group with the remaining members comprising: 

  • Heads of Planning Scotland
  • the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives
  • the Society of Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland
  • the Royal Town Planning Institute

The research was undertaken by Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) and RTPI Scotland.  

Purpose of the Report

It was agreed at the meeting of the High-Level Group on 8th December 2021 that Heads of Planning Scotland, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Improvement Service would undertake collaborative research to explore the options available to support the growth of entrants into the planning profession in Scotland. The objectives and expected outcomes of the research were to:

  • Assess the current situation in terms of recruitment of planners in local authorities, mapping of current approaches taken to recruitment and of ‘gap filling’ being undertaken at present;
  • Identify the destinations of planning staff who leave local authorities;
  • Scope routes into the planning profession and their effectiveness, outcomes and impact including apprenticeships, vocation training, flexible study options and ‘grow your own’ initiatives;
  • Scope interventions already put in place to increase the attractiveness of critical professionals and disciplines such as bursaries, subsidies, salary enhancements, incentives and diversified routes such as apprenticeship and vocational training;
  • Scope work being undertaken to increase rates of retention of staff looking at upskilling, training, staff pooling and attracting returners and retired members to provide a flexible ‘on demand’ resources;
  • Scope how critical careers and disciplines have been promoted, including examination of other professions and disciplines in Scotland and the UK and planning profession in other countries;
  • Assess the current position regarding promotion of planning as a career, looking at awareness in schools, colleges and universities, the role of Skills Development Scotland, the awareness and perceptions of the profession; and
  • Scope initiatives undertaken by professional and trade bodies across sectors and countries aimed at increasing entrants into their discipline.

The research was undertaken between January – April 2022, and this report is the culmination of the work undertaken during this timeframe. The report has been updated in June 2023. Please view below. 

The research is focused on the needs of supporting new entrants into planning authorities however many of the recommendations will be relevant and pertinent to other employers including Scottish Government, Key Agencies, planning consultancies and third sector planning organisations.


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