Addressing the Shortage of Place Shaping Skills in the East

Planning is the fundamental building block of economic growth and shaping places for the future. Yet the recruitment and retention of planners has become an acute issue in recent years, which threatens our capacity to deliver much needed housing and growth.

A recent review involved a survey of all councils across the region, along with in depth interviews and a workshop for key stakeholders, including universities and further education colleges.

Key issues
The review confirmed the nature and scale of the problem across the East of England. Key issues highlighted were:

  • Lack of capacity – at the time of the survey there were 114 vacancies for planners across the region
  • An ageing workforce and lack of experienced senior planners ––not enough new planners / graduates to cope with increasing demand
  • High turnover and retention issues -  caused by limited career progression and training opportunities,  and competition  on salaries from London and the private sector
  • Quality of recruitment – a lack of flexibility in local government recruitment processes

Solutions and recommendations
The review uncovered much good and innovative work underway across the region. But more could be done to share best practice. The key recommendations are:

  • Developing and promoting clear career pathways, involving joint working between councils and local FE colleges and universities – with opportunities to enter as apprentices and graduates and progress quickly into more senior roles
  • More collaboration between councils to share resources – especially in more specialist areas
  • Adopting greater flexibility in recruitment processes and practice
  • Stronger promotion of planning as a profession – unique opportunity to shape places for the future
  • Helping to tackle specific practical and cultural blockages at local level

In addition, the report suggests establishing a ‘Place Agency’ for the East of England.  This is a proposal for a ‘Teach First for Planning’ to put talented planners, architects and urbanists on frontline placements in local authorities which was developed for London.

The East of England LGA and national LGA have jointly funded an extension of the work for the East of England.

Next steps
The recommendations from the report have been turned into an action plan which is being driven forward by a regional co-ordinating group.

We will keep the news pages updated with progress, for further information you can also contact Lucy.Ashwell@eelga.gov.uk