What is planning?

Town planning makes better and more sustainable places for everyone to live, work and enjoy.

Imagine what kind of buildings and resources your local town or village needs...

You might have thought about homes and workplaces, shops and restaurants, roads and railways.

What about parks, libraries, schools, hospitals? Where should they all go?

Town Planners manage these competing demands and uses for space. At the heart of their work, planners balance social, economic and environmental needs to shape the way that towns and cities grow and to create great communities for everyone.

Land is a precious resource, much in demand. To benefit everybody today, and future generations, planners try to balance requirement for places of work, amenities and affordable housing with the need to minimise the impact of any developments on the natural environment.

To help reduce housing shortages, it is the UK Government's ambition to build one million new homes by 2020 and planners are central to the decision-making.

Making and planning places affects everyone

Planning is involved in major projects like the London Olympics and Crossrail as well as big issues such as climate change and the housing shortage.

It also deals with local projects like the design and layout of towns and villages and even the size and location of a house extension.

Town Planners help communities, companies, local and national politicians to make decisions about how to best use their space.

Good planning protects coastlines and historic buildings, regenerates declining places and creates new environments.

It preserves the best of the past and promotes innovation, so that the towns and buildings of the future will continue to meet our needs.

What planning is all about

Planning covers a very broad area, so the work is varied. Depending on the job role, it may include:

  • Designing new towns or villages ensuring places have green spaces, jobs and schools
  • Balancing the needs of communities, businesses and the environment informing and
  • Directing policy at local and national levels using public meetings and surveys to find out
  • Public opinion assessing planning applications enforcing planning rules and regulations
  • Promoting schemes to attract industry to an area developing land reclamation programmes
  • Protecting buildings that are of historical and architectural importance forecasting changes
  • Updating plans as necessary ensuring that suitable land becomes available for development.

Planners must strike a balance between landowners' and developers' wishes, and the needs and concerns of the wider public. Regional news media often focus on local disputes over the siting of new housing, roads or supermarkets, for example. In all planning decisions, social, economic and environmental factors must be balanced, and sustainable development achieved.

The decisions arrived at can be controversial, raising public concern about issues such as noise pollution, spoiling a natural landscape or increased traffic.

Whilst central government (e.g. through the Department for Communities and Local Government) has overall responsibility for national planning policy, local planning decisions are made by local planning authorities.