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Priorities for Planners – CPD at the RTPI

Posted: 18th February 2016

Cat Goumal - Senior Education and Lifelong Learning Officer
Sarah Lewis - Planning Practice Officer

Royal Town Planning Institute

Over the last 18 months the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has been running a long term project focusing on the learning and practice needs of our members. This has resulted in the RTPI identifying continuing professional development (CPD) priorities for our members for the first time in our history.

Town and country planners have a unifying role and work at the crossroads of many social, economic and environmental issues and work with a wide range of people and organisations to create better places. The RTPI is here to give planners the best support we can; and the aim of this project is to ensure that the CPD resources we deliver cover the areas of knowledge, and help develop the skills, that planners need to do their jobs effectively. By making sure that we take a coordinated approach across all the many different RTPI activities it adds value to our learning opportunities and demonstrates to RTPI members and non-members the breadth of CPD we offer, as well as reaching new members.

The project started with a comprehensive review of the learning and practice needs of the planning profession. We have spoken to our members, collated feedback from attendees at our events, surveyed employers, and examined the results alongside recommendations from our policy and research work.

With the help of a member led working group we have analysed this information to identify eight key CPD areas for planners in 2015 - 16. These are:

Without doubt the 'housing crisis' is the most critical and talked about issue for planners working in the UK. However, the RTPI believes that resolving the housing crisis is about much more than numbers. It is about creating well designed, successful places and communities in which people want to live, that are also locally affordable.

Planners should also recognise the economic consequences of their decisions, using their understanding of how markets operate to ensure that development adds value by being economically sustainable, whilst balancing this against wider sustainability objectives.

The vital role that planning can play in delivering improvements to health and well-being is also now more prominent than ever. Planning can also contribute to a more equal, inclusive and cohesive society if places, facilities and neighbourhoods are designed to be accessible and inclusive for all. Further, the use of land has an impact on energy usage, either by the impact that the location of development and infrastructure has on demand for energy, or by using land as an energy source.

These key areas of knowledge need to be underpinned by key skills. Planners have a key role in communicating important but sometimes complex information in a way that a wide range of stakeholders can understand and engage with. Carrying out this process successfully involves understanding the political process that planners work within, and should be underpinned at all times by a strong code of professional ethics. This allows planners to act appropriately given the sometimes conflicting requirements of their employer, the needs of the individuals affected, the collective needs of the community and their own personal views.

The RTPI’s CPD policy requires all our members to complete 50 hours of CPD in each 2 year period. However, as the RTPI is a professional institute representing over 23,000 planners across all the UK nations and around the world, we can not be too rigid about what our members should cover in their CPD. However, we firmly believe the eight priorities we have set are the right ones that will address the key issues planners will face and need to tackle in the foreseeable future. The priorities we have identified are for the profession as a whole and should act as a starting point for our members when considering what they need to cover when writing their Professional Development Plan (PDP).

In our advice we stress that it is not just formal courses or qualifications that qualify as CPD, but can also include activities, such as research, volunteering for the RTPI, work based learning and online learning. Keeping up to date with our substantial programme of policy and research work covering the big issues in planning can also contribute to CPD. Our latest research published last week, on Planning as a market maker uses case studies from Germany, France and Holland and found when planning is provided with a proactive remit to utilise functions such as upfront investment in infrastructure and land assembly, planning can add value by creating certainty for market actors and boosting demand for development through the creation of place-quality. More information on RTPI policy and research work is available.

This is an ongoing project. It is helping the RTPI to become more joined up as an Institute it makes us better informed about our members, and our members better informed about their Institute. Based on these eight priorities the RTPI will continue to design and deliver a range of CPD and learning opportunities for our members for 2016. Visit the RTPI website at for the latest information.

Contributors: Cat Goumal is the RTPI Senior Education and Lifelong Learning Officer and Sarah Lewis is the Planning Practice Officer at the RTPI. The RTPI is part of E4BE.