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Important qualities for a town planner in 2018

As a town planner, you can make a significant impact on our towns, cities and rural areas. Town planners must have a range of skills and a keen interest in improving our environment and living spaces. Planning is a broad area that involves many different activities. Professionals must ensure every project is sustainable and be able to make important decisions to guide the development. Below, the Cobalt team have outlined the must-have qualities for the modern town planner.

Residential experience
The UK is facing a serious housing shortage. House-builders, developers and housing associations are extremely busy using town planning consultancies to help them push through key projects and applications. Make sure to highlight you have planning applications experience in your CV, as it’s highly desirable to both the public and the private sectors. Planners will also need to play a key role in addressing the demands of housing and analysing affordable housing provision. Residential experience can help you thrive in these areas.

Major projects
The skills to handle major planning applications is gained through experience, usually anywhere between five and ten years in the profession. There is a real shortage within consultancies and local authorities at Principal Planning Officer and Senior/Associate Planner level. The shortfall is the lingering effect of the recession in 2009 – a number of town planners left the profession – meaning many teams are now looking to capture candidates with 5-10 years’ experience. Having experience on major projects can make you stand out from other applicants, and it can be crucial for career progression.

Project Management
This is an important skill to have in your locker, particularly if you are looking to move into a client led role. Moving away from consultancy means that you become the client, taking full ownership of development projects. The start of a development process is where this skill is particularly relevant; managing several external and third-party teams from land acquisition, through to planning, legal and often financing. Planners need to be able to manage a project effectively and be able to assess how the work affects the environment.

Business development
Clients are looking for commercially astute town planners who can win new business and manage existing client relationships. This skill goes hand in hand with the shortfall of senior level candidates mentioned previously. Business development skills are relevant across all sectors. The ability to spot new business opportunities and convince others to invest or partner in your organisation is a hugely beneficial skill. We have witnessed a need in the public sector for town planners to consider the financial viability of what they are trying to achieve locally for their community.

Political knowledge
As a town planner, it is important you are on point with all the latest debate and changes in the law which affects town planning policy. Graduates should invest more time in building their political knowledge as this is likely to be raised in an interview. When you have this knowledge, you’ll be able to demonstrate to employers that you take planning seriously. New mayors, Brexit and the changing of laws and legislation are just a number of areas that will affect the UK's planning system, therefore keeping up to date with an ever-changing landscape can only help make you become a more rounded town planner.

Town planners are at the heart of the development and management of our towns and cities. They help shape the identity of our communities. The choices these professionals make directly contribute to the quality of the town or city. Planners should be concerned with not just the development of the space, but with how that space can fulfil the needs of people and the environment. Town planners are nothing short of essential. All these qualities are important to the role and can help move your career forward.

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