Matt Clarke, head of consultancy Boyer in Colchester, drives home the importance of continued learning in all its guises for planners.
Continuing professional development (CPD) and lifelong learning are fundamental requirements of being a “professional” regardless of the nature of a person’s chosen vocation. Town planning is no exception. Indeed it could be argued that the rapidly changing environment of planning in the UK makes this particularly crucial.
With national policy and practice guidance, ministerial statements in addition to the emergence of local development frameworks, supplementary guidance and neighbourhood plans, not to mention the implications of case law, emerging and evolving on a seemingly daily basis, it is clearly important for planners to keep their finger on the pulse on a number of fronts to stand any chance of operating effectively within the system.
While the easiest, most attractive option may be to enrol on a conference with big hitting keynote speakers - and there is nothing wrong with this as one valuable source of CPD - there are myriad other accessible resources available such as the planning press, online articles and social media features.
Don’t forget good old fashioned on-the-job learning, with research and reading around a 'live' issue and the gaining of insight from knowledgeable colleagues. These are often the best and most effective drivers for learning and their value should be not to be overlooked.
Keeping abreast of this ever-changing legislative and policy context could be seen as “running to stand still” to some extent. But viewed more positively it should undoubtedly be recognised that CPD is not only a requirement of RTPI membership, but also a means to excelling within the planning arena.
Naturally this also equates to maximising your own chances of progressing your career as a planning professional within either the public or private sectors. The flip-side to this is that ambivalence to continued learning is likely to leave you flagging and exposed professionally, while also running a very real risk of lagging behind your colleagues.
The importance of CPD should not be underestimated – it is a career-long obligation and a necessity for practising professionals, equally as crucial to graduates embarking on the early stages of their careers as it is to those with many years of experience in the workplace.
Matt Clarke is a director and head of Boyer in Colchester