Careers Advice: Key Tips for Enhancing Negotiation Skills

Written by: Karen Charles
Published on: 23 Apr 2018


It is inevitable that with most proposals, there will be some harm and some benefits and the skill of the planner is to be able to weigh up the harm and benefits, and to assess the proposal against the relevant policies of the development plan.

It is the role of the planning consultant to be able to establish a robust case that the benefits of a proposal outweigh any harm and that the proposal is in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations exist to justify a decision which is contrary to the development plan.

Being a good negotiator requires skill and experience, and therefore it is essential that a planner has breadth and depth of expertise. Whilst this largely comes though the passage of time, all planners can improve their ability to carry out effective planning negotiations. Suggestions include:

1. Know your facts

  • have a thorough understanding of the site and surrounding area, including all known constraints (e.g. heritage, flood risk, environmental etc);

  • fully understand the planning history of the site and any relevant planning history from the surrounding area;

  • have a thorough understanding of adopted and emerging planning policies and guidance;

  • be aware of appeal decisions and court judgments which may be relevant to the proposal; and

  • read carefully all technical background reports relevant to the site and proposed development

2. Know your stakeholders

  • build a positive working relationships with your planning officer, and other officers at the council;

  • understand the decision makers (e.g. planning committee councillors) and the issues that are relevant to them;

  • understand local politics (e.g. ward councillors) and what influence this may have on planning decisions;

  • understand the role and interest of other community stakeholders (e.g. parish councils, residents associations etc.); and

  • understand the issues of importance to the local community.

3. Be organised

  • agree a Planning Performance Agreement, or other informal arrangement, to establish key contacts, work programme, and target dates with the council;

  • maintain a note of meetings and ensure all actions are complete expediently; and

  • maintain a programme of outstanding matters to monitor their resolution.

Ultimately, it is the role of the planning consultant to negotiate planning permission. To achieve this, the planning consultant should support the planning officer in any way possible, in the decision-making process.

Karen Charles is director at consultants Boyer and head of the firm’s Wokingham office