Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Weekend Woman's Hour on Saturday (21st May) about spending versus austerity, amongst other issues. The one area that the IMF would suggest investing in, said Lagarde, when coming out of recession is, infrastructure. As she said in an article for the IMF back in 2014 "higher investment today for stronger growth tomorrow".
With the UK's continued commitment to housebuilding in England, investing £100billion in key infrastructure projects, and the announcement in the Queen's speech last week of the new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure bill, it seems the UK Government as taking Lagarde’s advice on-board.
The new bill will look to "support the economic recovery, to create jobs and more apprenticeships, and new legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure and that businesses need to grow." But, what does all this extra infrastructure development mean for the planning profession and have we got the resources to cope?
Stephen Wilkinson, Vice-President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said; “We welcome the government’s continued commitment to housebuilding in England, although a greater recognition of the variety of factors affecting the rate of building new homes would give a clearer picture of all the challenges we face and need to get to grips with. Investing £100billion in key infrastructure projects is good news and crucially should be planned and coordinated in order to support economic growth and help ministers meet their housing ambitions. We also look forward to seeing the detail of the plans for neighbourhood planning as we can, through RTPI/ Planning Aid England, bring a great deal of experience to any suggested reforms in this area.”
The RTPI launched its Technical Apprenticeship in 2015 to help generate more planning professionals, in a candidate short market. They are continuing to look for employers to extend this training scheme across the UK and are also considering the feasibility of Degree apprenticeships.
It is notable that staffing in local authority forward planning departments are “down by 37% over 5 years” according to the RTPI and “no measures have been proposed to provide sufficient resources for forward planning”. LPAs are having to work hard to meet the government’s March 2017 deadline for local plans comments “and often have no other staff to draw on." comments the RTPI
Recruitment and resourcing is clearly challenging across the planning marketplace at present and investment in infrastructure development increases the pressure.
“Over the past 2-3 years we have seen a marked uplift in planning projects across the UK, and there is undoubtedly a shortage of planning professionals to resource them. However, the Planning & Built Environment Recruitment team at ALLEN & YORK have a strong network of planning professionals, and each consultant is an expert within their field. We are having continued success recruiting for our clients, across; development, consultancy, private practice and public sector recruits, despite a challenging candidate marketplace.” Sarah Kerr, Team Leader Planning & Built Environment Team at ALLEN & YORK.
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