Planning Officer

The main purpose of planners is to make the best use of land and natural resources while conserving the environment. The challenge is whether the land should be developed for housing, industry, retail, etc and to enforce against breaches of planning control where necessary and expedient. Planners are required to deal with statutory duties and requirements under the Town and Country Planning Act and related legislation. Anyone wanting to build, develop or change the use of land within an authority should gain the permission of the Local Planning Authority unless it is "permitted" under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995. It's within this framework that Planning Officers provide support for more Senior Planning Officers. Planners are employed in every authority in Wales.

Work Environment
As a Planning Officer, you'd divide your time between work indoors - largely in an office environment but also occasionally in village community centres or town halls, for example, when public meetings take place - and on-site visits, out in the open air, in all weathers.  You'd usually work normal office hours, but sometimes you may need to attend meetings - with the public or developers, for instance - outside office hours.

Daily Activities
Your daily activities as a Planning Officer would focus around the needs of the Senior Planning Officers and your caseload. You'd work as part of a team and your tasks may include:

  • checking the validity of incoming applications and liaising with agents and applicants to advise of the information necessary to accompany a planning application, any errors or discrepancies, etc; 
  • ensuring their applications are valid, all relevant consultees have been contacted, site notices have been displayed, etc; 
  • research, evaluation and reporting of applications having regard to agreed targets, the Authority's policy framework and site constraints; 
  • preparation of pre-application planning advice for customers; 
  • providing planning and permitted development advice to customers by phone, email, letter and in person; 
  • gathering, collating, scanning and documenting information in relation to pre-application enquiries and planning applications in particular; 
  • working and liaising with contractors, local authorities, outside bodies and agencies, planning consultants, councillors, developers and the public; 
  • adding value to the quality of development and design via the planning application process; 
  • co-ordinating and attending meetings at Civic Centre and on site to discuss development proposals and provide opinion, discuss proposals, negotiate amendments if necessary; 
  • checking and assessing development proposals having regard to Environmental Impact Assessment legislation; 
  • monitoring developments once they've been completed to make sure they comply with planning conditions; 
  • investigating potential and alleged breaches of planning legislation; 
  • to assist in the appeals process; 
  • taking necessary enforcement action (under the supervision of senior planning officers).

Skills & Interests
You'd need to:

  • be meticulous - have an eye for detail and accuracy;
  • computer literate;
  • be flexible, able to respond to a range of requests and complete them within a deadline;
  • have good communication skills - you'd be dealing with all kinds of people and would need to be able to explain planning matters clearly and succinctly, including writing reports;
  • be a good team worker;
  • be empathetic, a good negotiator and able to weigh up conflicting opinions;
  • be able to read, understand and explain plans and proposals;
  • have an interest in all aspects of the environment - both urban and rural; 
  • be able to manage time effectively, dealing with a high caseload of applications in an environment where targets exist to monitor the time taken to process applications, answer letters, return phone calls, etc;
  • have a driving licence.

Entry Requirements
To become a Planning Officer, you will need to hold a recognised qualification in Town Planning (or a related discipline) to a minimum level of HND, HNC, NVQ Level 4, or a Degree or Diploma in Planning, or alternatively, have an equivalent combination of knowledge and several years' experience of planning. Demonstrable knowledge of the planning system and basic planning legislation, especially that relating to development management is essential. 

Future Prospects & Opportunities
There's a promotion structure within Planning departments, with opportunities to become a Senior Planning Officer- although you may have to move authority for promotion. There are also jobs for Planning Officer outside local government. Membership of the RTPI can be gained after satisfying the Institute that you have the required mixture of qualifications and experience (normally one of the qualifications mentioned above and at least two years' relevant experience of work). You may also train further to become a professional Planner.

Further Information & Services
Royal Town Planning Institute
Planning Officers Society www.planning

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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