United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Being a Planner in the UK

This page is designed to allow you to quickly find out about the basics of the UK planning system and what a Town Planner’s job is within the system. It also provides some useful links and information for researching the jobs market and emerging planning news in the UK.

The UK Planning System

Planning systems within Commonwealth countries share many similarities. You will find layers of legislation, regulations, orders and other statutory instruments, supported by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG), together with Local Plans, Development Control Plans and other local documents.

Key legislation is contained within the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which should be read together with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

A multitude of Regulations and Orders set out further detail on planning processes and matters for consideration. Examples include the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure)(England)(Amendment) Order; the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995; the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes)(Amendment)(England) Order; Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. There are a number of others to be aware of and be sure to look for the latest amendment versions when researching any of these. In London, the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order includes provisions specifying the thresholds and procedure for development proposals that will require referral to the Mayor / Greater London Authority (GLA). Again, always look for the latest amendment version.

Some substantial changes have emerged in the UK planning system in recent years. These include the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, aims and objectives of which are to support planning at a local level. Amongst other things, the Localism Act includes introduces Neighbourhood Plans and sets out the steps required for production and adoption of Neighbourhood Plans. Although there has been slow progress, a number of Neighbourhood Plans are now emerging.

A number of recent changes to legislation and policy in recent years have been led by aims of stimulating the economy and supporting delivery of new homes. An example of this is a number of amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. Class J Part 3 of the Order introduced through amendment to the Order in May 2013, permits the change of use from Use Class B1a (office) to Use Class C3 (residential) without the requirement for full planning permission, but a prior approval process is required to address transport impacts, flooding, and contaminated land assessment. This provision has a lifespan and is due to expire on 30 May 2016 (by which time the residential use is required to have commenced).

Another initiative introduced by the government is the New Homes Bonus. You can read more about this here:

A good source of information for researching Acts, Regulations, Orders, etc., is: It is also important to be aware that there are usually separate Acts, Orders, etc., relating to Wales and Scotland.

Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, states that development proposals should be determined in accordance with the development plan, unless relevant material considerations indicate otherwise.

The Development Plan will include the up-to-date Local Plan for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) and may include a number of other plans, such as the London Plan (for LPAs in Greater London). There may also be Minerals and Waste Local Plans. Check with the relevant LPA to confirm the documents comprising the development plan.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published in March 2012, and replaces a raft of individual planning policy guidance documents (PPGs and PPSs). It does not form part of the Development Plan, but is a material consideration of considerable weight (refer to paragraph 2). It sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how they are expected to be applied. It also deals with the weight that can be attached to policies in Local Plans, depending on the extent to which they are up to date (refer to paragraphs 214 and 215).

Paragraph 14 sets out the government’s key theme, being the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which it states should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking. In terms of decision taking, it explains that this means approving development proposals that accord with the Development Plan without delay and granting planning permission where the Development Plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out of date, unless adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits or specific policies within the NPPF.

Go to the planning portal as a research source where you can locate these and other documents, including links to the Planning Inspectorate:

Planning Jobs in the UK

Many of our members gravitate to London when arriving in the UK. Employment opportunities can be found in both the public and private sectors. Positions with LPAs may be found on a contract or permanent basis, and will usually be in development management (formerly referred to as development control), enforcement and policy positions. Opportunities in the private sector will usually be on a permanent basis.

Although the jobs market was somewhat depressed during 2009 – 2010, it has gradually been improving, and presently (2014-15) the market has regained some strength and there are a good number of opportunities available.

There are, of course, also opportunities outside London, and some cities worth considering include Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham or Bristol.

Signing up to the Planning Resource is advised if you are looking for employment opportunities in the UK, as employment opportunities are regularly advertised:

There are quite a number of recruitment agencies specialising in town planning career opportunities. Some examples are KDH Associates or the Oyster Partnership These are just two of a number of agencies out there.

You should also take the time to explore the Royal Town Planning Institute web-site as a source of information on emerging planning issues, employment opportunities and other relevant research.

Royal Town Planning Membership

Members of PIA may wish to join the RTPI. Some employers will encourage you to become a member. For information on eligibility and the route to becoming an RTPI member, go to:

PIA International Division – UK Branch

To participate in UK branch activities, please make contact by emailing to to ensure that you are included on the mailing list for any up-coming events, or if you wish to meet up with the Branch Manager or Committee members for information and hints to help you settle in on your move to the UK.

There are regular meetings of the Committee and events are usually held a few times per year, providing the opportunity for you to network with fellow ex-pat planners, and to meet up with other planners in the UK.

Here is a brief summary of some of our recent events.

World Town Planning Day – Who Has a Right To The City? (4 November 2014)

In the context of rising pressure for new development in London, this event was organised jointly by the RTPI, NZPI and PIA, and considered who has the right to the city. Issues explored included whether privately owned publically accessible space can contribute to a more active and friendly environment for Londoners to enjoy; and whether the privatisation of London's public realm might isolate and exclude more than it benefits.

London Legacy Development Corporation (31 July 2014)

This event was hosted by the LLDC at their offices in Stratford, East London, boasting wide views over the Olympic Park site. The event was arranged by the PIA with the LLDC, and was sponsored by Hyder Consulting and Pinsent Masons, with invitations also extended to NZPI and RTPI members.

This well-attended event presented the work being carried out by the LLDC, together with development partners, to take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of the London 2012 Games to develop a dynamic new heart for East London. Anthony Hollingsworth (Director of Planning Policy and Decisions) and Kathryn Firth (Chief of Design) at the LLDC talked through the transformation and integration of this vital area of East London into sustainable and thriving neighbourhoods.

How Can Planners Help to Build More Homes (5 June 2014)

The NZPI extended an invitation to PIA members for this event held at the Town and Country Planning Association, which explored topics around the role planners can plan in solving the housing crisis in London and across the UK. Speakers included Steve Quartermain (Chief Planner – Department for Communities and Local Government); Phillipa Silcock (Principal Consultant with the Planning Advisory Service); Henry Smith (Area Manager – North East London, GLA); and representatives of the event sponsors Wei Yang and Partners.

International Planning Pub Quiz (14 May 2014)

Organised jointly between the PIA, RTPI and NZPI, and sponsored by KDH Associates, this ‘summer social’ event was well attended by members of all groups and provided a great opportunity for networking with other planners on an informal social basis.

Battersea Power Station (4 September 2013)

The restoration of the Grade II* listed Battersea Power Station, one of the UK’s most iconic buildings, is at the heart of an exciting project being delivered by the Battersea Power Station Development Company Ltd. Gordon Adams, Head of Planning at the Development Company (and former PIA UK Branch Manager), presented the masterplans for the project, which will deliver around 3,500 new homes, shops, offices, cafes and restaurants, within a 6 acre riverside park.

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