Skills, Knowledge and Behaviours for a New Planning System

Craig McLaren, Director of RTPI Scotland, discusses research led by RTPI on future skills needs for planners

Earlier in the year RTPI Scotland was commissioned by Scottish Government undertake research into the skills needs for planners. This was undertaken in the context of the Review of the Planning System.  RTPI Scotland has led the development of this paper, however the process has been informed by the working group established by Scottish Government on Leadership, Skills and Resources, and, the Scottish Planning Skills Forum.  The Scottish Planning Skills Forum is chaired by Professor Kevin Murray and includes representatives from education and training providers (Glasgow, Dundee and Heriot Watt Universities; the Improvement ServicePAS); employers (Heads of Planning Scotland and Scottish Planning Consultants Forum); Scottish Government; RTPI; and the Scottish Young Planners’ Network. The Forum’s broad membership and objective to support lifelong learning puts it in a prime position to inform on the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to deliver the new planning system.

The research looked to ask what skills and knowledge will be required for the new planning system?  How can we support planners to ensure that they have or attain these skills?  Who should be responsible for doing what? How can any activity be resourced?  In taking it forward, a number of principles were agreed:

  • Any new programme need to support all professionals involved in the statutory planning system. This means that it needs to involve multiple professions and sectors.
  • Any new proposals have to be a simple as possible and not over-complicate or overburden planning authorities
  • The work should recognise the differing needs of planners and other professionals in different roles and at different stages of their career
  • Any new action taken to addresses identified issues would need to be cost effective
  • Although some organisations would have to lead, specific approaches future work would be best delivered through the partnership of organisations and sectors involved and the Scottish Planning Skills Forum had an important role in coordinating this.
  • Although much of the debate is on public sector planners, it would be desirable for new initiatives to include all sectors, where appropriate
  • Initiatives should look to support individuals as they worked in organisations to ensure that any new learning would be suitable for that organisation
  • Key to the new approach would be sharing good practice and experiences among people and organisations

The research explored what skills, knowledge and behaviours it is thought are required for the ‘new planning system’ and identified – from a range of sources – development needs including a range of skills – both technical and generic – that planners should have.   It said that any future approach needs to learn from previous approaches that have concentrated almost exclusively on planners in local authorities. Any new programme must work across professionals in local authorities who have a role to play in place development. It must also involve people outside of
local authorities including the private sector, Scottish Government and its agencies and third sector organisations working in communities. It should, wherever possible, look to bring these different players together.  The report also said that new approaches should look to establishing learning in the workplace to ensure that they combine work aimed at promoting both individual and organisational behaviour change.

It also looked at how the skills, knowledge and behaviours required for a new system can be mainstreamed. The report said that there were opportunities arising from Planning Performance Frameworks published by planning authorities.  This would require new criteria to provide an indication of commitment and activity and thought needs to be given to how this can be used within the context of joint working between different part of local authorities and community planning partnerships.  The report also saw value in ‘kite marking’ schemes that reward commitment to staff development, including the RTPI’s Learning Partner initiative.

The research examined the mechanisms that would be most effective in promoting and supporting professionals to attain the skills, knowledge and behaviours they require and how best to coordinate and resource this work. It concluded that there is a need to establish and resource a single coordination point to gather information, intelligence and good practice; share good practice; signpost to events & training; match make and supporting collaboration between organisations; and deliver a multi-sector, multi-disciplinary transformational development programme aimed at changing behaviours.

The full report Developing Skills, Behaviours and Knowledge to Deliver Outcomes  was published by Scottish Government in June. They have said in their recent publication Places, People and Planning Position Statement they will continue to work with us on skills development so we look forward to taking forward this important issue.


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