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:
Town planning support staff may also be involved in enforcing planning regulations, which may include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A town planning support worker should:
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.
Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI),
41 Botolph Lane, London EC3R 8DL
Tel: 020 7929 9494
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.