As town planners we have to deal effectively with all the fundamental issues of our day. Our agenda extends across providing homes, creating jobs, meeting social needs, protecting the environment and building sustainable communities.
That agenda is challenging enough but we also face rapidly shifting political priorities, frequent policy changes and the fast emergence of new social and economic trends.
It is a complex, uncertain yet stimulating environment in which to work.
Against that background, the challenge to professional planners to operate successfully is considerable.
So how can planners build a successful career in that context? How can we be enthused and inspired by our subject matter rather than intimidated and overwhelmed?
Well, a solid knowledge base is vital and must be refreshed almost on a daily basis through formal and informal CPD – things change so quickly.
You’ve got to keep moving or you’ll be left behind.
But knowledge is not an end in itself. We must as planners have the capability to analyse, interpret and apply what we have learned. We have to make judgements. I believe we all have this capability but not all of us realise it.
As planners, we can’t advise and negotiate just by listing the facts or by reading the opinions and judgements of others. For example, a planner might try to reach a conclusion about a five-year land supply in an area by reading all recent appeal decisions on the subject. That is not going to be a sufficient basis for judgement. You must understand the specific circumstances involved and decide what applies and what doesn’t.
We must be prepared to understand the logic behind the judgements of others, be prepared to disagree with them and apply new reasoning.
As planners we must have confidence and trust in our own judgements and be prepared to exercise original thinking, apply a logical mind and a sound, reasoned thought process.
Build your own capacity to analyse and interpret, 'mind map' all the issues and exercise your creativity. That’s what makes the profession stimulating and rewarding.
Mike Newton is a director at Boyer’s Wokingham office