Town Planning Support Staff

The Job and What's Involved

Town planning is about preparing plans to shape the future of our towns, cities and rural areas for the benefit of society, both now and in the future. Town planning support staff, sometimes known as planning technicians, give technical, administrative and practical support to town planners.

Their work includes helping to collect planning information, maintaining records of planning applications, and preparing reports, plans and drawings. This may include:

  • Updating and compiling files relating to the use of land and property.
  • Searching plans, and land and property files to gather information.
  • Providing advice to members of the public on a range of planning matters.
  • Helping with minor planning applications.
  • Carrying out surveys, mapping and recording information, and presenting the data.
  • Setting up and maintaining computer databases, and applying new technology, such as geographic information systems (GIS), to a range of planning tasks.
  • Producing illustrations and other graphics for documents and exhibitions.

Town planning support staff may also be involved in enforcing planning regulations, which may include:

  • Making sure that developments have permission to go ahead.
  • Checking that any conditions attached to permission for developments have been met.
  • Preparing reports based on site observations.
  • Preparing statutory notes and serving enforcement notices.
  • Preparing evidence for appeal or court proceedings.
  • Maintaining registers and other records.

Town planning support staff must have detailed knowledge of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), a government policy order outlining certain limited or minor forms of development that may proceed without the need to make an application for planning permission. They must also be aware of the latest legislation in the area.

Some technicians have expertise in desktop publishing and computer-aided design (CAD).

Town planning support staff work 35 to 40 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. On occasions, they may have to attend evening meetings. Job sharing, part-time work and flexible working hours are possible.

Support staff are based in offices, but may have to make site visits. Some jobs require a driving licence.

Starting salaries may range from around £13,000 to £15,600 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Local authorities and government departments employ the majority of town planning support staff. Other employers include planning consultancies, large firms, such as house builders, supermarket chains and water companies, government agencies for heritage and the countryside, and voluntary and environmental organisations.

Town planning support is a growing area.

Job vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, in Planning magazine and on internet sites, such as www.planningresource.co.uk.

Education and Training

There are no set entry qualifications for this work. Employers have different requirements, but normally ask for at least four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths.

In practice, applicants may have A levels/H grades, or other qualifications such as a Scottish Group Award (SGA) in Construction, a planning HND or Foundation degree, or a graphic design or IT qualification.

Previous relevant experience may be useful, preferably in a planning office, although this is not essential.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Town planning support staff are trained on the job by experienced colleagues. They may study part time for a qualification. To achieve technical membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) they need at least two years' experience of relevant work and a recognised qualification. These include:

NVQ/SVQ in Town Planning Support at Level 3 - this has no entry requirements and is the most common qualification in the field. Students have to complete five mandatory units and choose three further units that relate to their particular job.

BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Planning - entry is with a minimum of one A level/two H grades or an equivalent qualification relevant to building. The course lasts two years.

Certificate in Planning Studies - entry is typically with two A levels/three H grades, and the course lasts two years.

Certificate in Professional Development in Town Planning - requires one A level/two H grades or the equivalent. This is also a two-year course.

The Planning Foundation Course - this is a distance-learning course offered by Carbrook Associates. There are no set entry requirements, and the course takes an average of two years to complete.

The Certificated Course Programme in Planning Enforcement - this course has no set entry requirements, and consists of a series of four-day courses. This programme, in combination with module two of the Carbrook Associates course, is accepted by the RTPI as a qualification for technical membership. The course is offered by Trevor Roberts Associates.

Town planning support staff may become associate members of the RTPI when they start planning work, and technical members when they have met the Institute's requirements. They are then entitled to use TechRTPI after their name. Support staff involved in enforcement may belong to the RTPI's National Association of Planning Enforcement (NAPE).

Town planning support staff may go on to work towards an NVQ/SVQ in Town Planning at Level 4 to continue their professional development.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A town planning support worker should:

  • Be meticulous and methodical.
  • Have good numerical skills.
  • Be able to work accurately within tight deadlines.
  • Be able to keep up to date with current legislation
  • Be capable of giving clear advice and explaining technical issues simply.
  • Have excellent spoken and written communication skills.
  • Be able to use computers to maintain databases and produce tables, maps and charts.
  • Have good organisational skills.
  • Work well alone and as part of a team.

Your Long Term Prospects

It may be necessary to change employers to progress.

There are usually possibilities within local and central government planning departments for promotion to supervisory and specialist roles. Opportunities within other organisations vary, but some have supervisory positions.

With further study, town planning support staff may qualify to become town planners.

Get Further Information

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI),
41 Botolph Lane, London EC3R 8DL
Tel: 020 7929 9494
Website: www.rtpi.org.uk

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