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Brokenshire wants ‘fresh thinking’ on planning recruitment

Words: Martin Read
(L-R) Bob Neill MP, Ian Tant, James Brokenshire, Sue Manns and Victoria Hills / Martin Read

James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has told an audience of planners that the government must do more to support the profession and give it the respect it deserves.

Speaking at the RTPI’s annual Parliamentary Reception, Brokenshire told those present that the planning profession “has never been more important”.

And he agreed with RTPI president Ian Tant that the lack of planners in senior positions on local councils – identified in RTPI research conducted late last year – was “a real impediment in terms of how we are able to move forward with the delivery of our homes agenda”.

Speaking of the government’s housing target of 300,000 new homes a year, Brokenshire said that “the need for skills, expertise, capacity and capability on the planning side will be so important as we look to deliver on that agenda”. And while the 20 per cent hike in planning fees to boost local authority planning departments would help, he continued, “the issue of capability… goes much further”.

“I know that this is more than just funding; it’s about ensuring we have a plan in place to recruit and train the next generation of planners. It’s why RTPI initiatives such as your Future Planners bursary are so badly needed, bringing students from other disciplines into this essential profession.”

Brokenshire spoke in support of the RTPI’s contributions to his department’s work since he became secretary of state in April of last year, and of his enthusiasm for working with the institute in the months ahead.

“We must open up the conversation on planning recruitment,” he added. “We need fresh thinking on how we bring this critical profession [to the attention of] more people. And as a profession, you serve diverse communities; so it is essential you reflect that too.

“That's why I share your desire to see more viable routes into planning. Graduate schemes, yes – but equally, through our supporting of local authorities to develop their own training and skills initiatives as well.”

The RTPI’s Parliamentary Reception was hosted by Bob Neill, the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst and a long-time champion of the RTPI within government. Earlier in the evening, Neill had spoken of  “the need for good professionals planners to make the system work”.

The March 2019 edition of The Planner will focus on the issue of diversity within the profession.

Image credit | Martin Read