Careers Advice: Is a career in planning consultancy right for you?

Written by: Jim Bailey
Published on: 12 Mar 2018


I started my planning career in local government, but soon decided that it wasn’t for me and moved across to the private sector. Over the last 30 years or so, I have worked for several planning consultancies and a PLC house builder. I thoroughly enjoy my job and if you are considering a career in planning consultancy, for me, there are several positive reasons for making the move.

  1. Variety of work

No two days are the same. As a general practitioner, I carry out a wide range of tasks, including:

  • Site appraisals, where clients are looking at a site and need to know if it has potential, or not;

  • Pre-application enquiries, including meetings with planning officer to discuss proposals;

  • Attending public consultation exhibitions and engaging with members and public;

  • Writing planning statements in support of clients’ applications;

  • Submitting planning applications, including collating plans and reports from sub-consultants on key issues;

  • Attending planning committees to speak in favour of applications;

  • Reviewing Neighbourhood and Local Plans to assess how clients’ sites are affected;

  • Writing and submitting development plan representations in support of clients’ sites;

  • Promoting clients’ sites at development plan examination hearings;

  • Submitting appeals by written representations, hearing and inquiry;

  • Instructing counsel and appearing at inquiries and hearings as an expert witness; and

  • Giving advice to clients on a day-to-day basis over the phone and in writing.

In addition, there are no geographical boundaries. I undertake work across the whole of the south of England, in many council areas. This further adds to the variety, as every council seems to have a slightly different way of looking at things!

  1. Career progression

If you are hardworking and good at your job, there is no reason why you shouldn’t progress quickly up the career ladder. I have seen many people in consultancies, regardless of background, promoted quickly to senior positions for which they have been well remunerated. There are no glass ceilings, in my experience, which could hold you back. The general rule is that more you put in, the more you get out, which is definitely the way it should be.

  1. Building relationships

Over time, clients and other consultants, with whom you work on a regular basis, become friends. This leads to invitations to social events, from lunch in the local pub to black tie dinners in swanky hotels. It has led me to enjoy many sporting and cultural events, as a participant and spectator, including taking clients to watch an England rugby match at Twickenham this year.

There are many routes into a worthwhile and rewarding career in the consultancy sector. For example, some consultancies, including Pegasus Group, offer a graduate training programme. Pegasus is also currently investigating the possibility of taking on some apprentices, under the RTPI Town Planning Technical Support Apprenticeship scheme.

Jim Bailey is director at Pegasus Group, based in Bracknell, Berkshire