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Theory and practice
Author: Janice Morphet

Planning is central to economic, social and environmental life but its practice is frequently criticised by all who engage in it. Seen as too restrictive by those who promote development and too weak by those opposing it, planners who advise on proposals cannot sit on the fence. Is it the planning system that is problematic or is it the planners who work within it? This valuable book examines these issues at the continuing professional development level and discusses the ways in which management theories, tools and techniques can be applied to planning practice and used by all who engage in it.

Written by an experienced author and widely respected academic, the book includes case studies and question and answer sections, and will be valuable through both initial and continuous professional education, helping candidates prepare for examinations and subsequent management.

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Author: Janice Morphet

Leadership and management are critical to the way in which planning is practised, perceived, resourced and trusted. Yet over the past 50 years, in the UK, planning practice has been criticised by governments, companies and communities for its failure to be ‘effective’ (Clifford and Tewdwr-Jones, 2013), albeit that these detractors have failed to define the ideal process. These criticisms have been made by both major political parties operating in England (Barker, 2004, 2006; Osborne, 2014). They have primarily been aimed at local government, at the institutional scale that is responsible for the operation of the planning system and at local authority planners, in particular for their inability to manage the planning system in a way that supports the national economic interests. This had led to a continuing process of reforms to the planning system in England since 2004. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, there have also now been major reforms within the planning system, but the relationship between those engaged in the planning system and politicians has mostly been more positive (Morphet, 2011a, 2011b; Morphet and Clifford, 2014).

However, this is a simplistic view of the way in which the UK planning system operates. Planning professionals are more similar to lawyers than doctors; they advise others who take the decisions. If leadership and management are to be considered, all those with a stake in the planning system have a role to play. In local authorities, this includes councillors, the chief executive, chief officers and the community as well as planners. Part of the planner’s role is to evaluate the proposals, policies and projects within the planning framework, identifying ‘imagined users’ (Ivory, 2013) and ensuring that these conceptualisations are consistent with reality.

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Author: Janice Morphet

A major part of public planning practice is concerned with regulation. This is undertaken through processes where there is a requirement for fairness and transparency. This requires a more system led approach which is complaint with administrative law through which regulatory practices and decisions may be challenged through Judicial Review. Other parts of planning including plan-making in the public sector and planning applications and scheme work in the private and voluntary sectors are project-based and are not subject to the same kinds of legal challenge. They comprise single activities, although multiple activities may be undertaken for the same client. Management in the public sector is more complex. Planning practice here embraces processes and projects. Moreover, there is an onus on public sector organisations to operate in democratic environment, which brings additional responsibilities for openness and accountability. While planners in all sectors are primarily engaged in major or complex applications, the responsibility for planning decisions in the public sector takes place within a framework established by democratically elected councillors and then delegated to the local authority officers to exercise on their behalf.

Determining planning applications requires that a fair process is followed within the time and budget allowed. Each element in the process must be tracked and monitored to ensure that deadlines are met and quality outcomes achieved (Adams and Tiesdell, 2013). Each planning application includes consultation and environmental assessments. A failure in the process leaves open the opportunity for legal challenge within complaint procedures, such as through the Ombudsman or through judicial review.

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Author: Janice Morphet

Most planning activities – including the delivery of plans, planning applications, planning appeals, inquiries and examinations, and research and monitoring – require a project-based management approach. This chapter discusses the project management method, and in particular its application to planning. Projects are transitory activities that are intended to have lasting effects through the implementation of change or the identification of future change (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005). In planning practice, plan making has frequently been regarded as a process (Kitchen, 2007), where contributing activities have no defined ends, only defined points of contribution. This fluid approach may be a reason why plan making is slow and inconclusive. Research, monitoring and specialist studies have defined content parameters, dependencies with other activities and can also be defined as projects in their own right.

Project management is used to manage specific rather than continuous activities. It is used in managing the construction of buildings and bridges, and in landscaping, where the preparation and ordering of the individual elements are critical to the project’s success. It is also used to manage the production of reports or submissions, organisational change or improvement processes, and court cases. Project management methods are designed to support delivery on time, on budget and within the objectives set. Projects are characterised as having a beginning, middle and end, and as being completed in stages.

A large project may comprise numerous smaller projects and may be considered as a programme where individual projects and their components are interrelated and interdependent. Examples include major infrastructure projects such as railway or metro systems, or an Olympic Park, but may also include housing or university developments that are implemented over a longer period.

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Author: Janice Morphet

Finance is a key consideration for all organisations. The way in which an organisation is able to manage and attract finance is critical to its success in achieving its objectives. Finance forms part of the organisation’s resource base and is accompanied by staff, land and buildings, equipment, intellectual property and reputation, all of which are capable of being assigned a financial value. Management of these resources may be direct or indirect and includes both day-to-day management as well as dealing with change and crises.

Financial resources have a number of roles within planning. First, there are the costs of a planning service or planning application to consider (BCCI, 2011a). Planning is an essential component of all capital investment in land and buildings and plays a central role in the country’s national and local economies (PAS, 2014c; RTPI, 2014). Planning is used to support investment and also generates mitigating development contributions to be spent on infrastructure and facilities.

Accounting for financial resources is considered in two ways – the use of capital resources for long-term investment and revenue or current resources for day-to-day expenditure. Accounting for the use of resources must be undertaken according to legally binding standards. Until 2013, the accounting standards for the private and the public sector differed, as did those between nations. Since 2013, International Financial and Reporting Standards (IFRS) have begun to be introduced; these will be the same for all sectors and across a number of countries. In the UK, their implementation is due to be completed in 2017.

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Author: Janice Morphet

People are a key resource and cost in any organisation, particularly those in the professional services sector. In delivering planning, staff are the main cost, whether in a public service or consultancy. Planners may make up the majority of employees in an organisation such as a planning consultancy or they may be part of a larger organisation, such as a local authority. Although the majority of planners in the private sector may be employed in organisations primarily focused on planning, some are part of larger management consultancies or retailers (RTPI, 2014). Some planning consultancies employ more planners than local authorities (Sell, 2013). The structure of the organisation and the way that planners are managed within it will have a key effect on employees’ contribution to the organisation as a whole, and in particular on its efficiency in serving its community or clients. Since then, both the number of chartered town planners and the proportion of planners employed in the private sector has grown. While planning in the private sector has experienced major growth, local authorities have experienced financial pressures. This has led to planning services being scrutinised in an attempt to identify cost-cutting and income-generation activities. At the same time, there have been reductions in specialist staff such as heritage officers (IHBC, 2013). There has also been an increase in the volume of delegated planning applications, which cost 90% less than applications put to councillors for decision (PAS, 2008). Planners and support staff have increasingly been employed on short term contracts to increase resource flexibility.

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Author: Janice Morphet

Planning is funded by civil society to regulate land use and support public investment within sustainable objectives. Planning provides an institutional framework and operational certainty for private sector investment. Planners are engaged in delivering the planning system. They occupy a number of roles that are primarily advisory rather than executive in nature. Planners certified by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) are bound by a code of professional conduct, which applies to members’ professional activities and requires them to act with integrity and competence. Planners’ professional status is defined by a Royal Charter in the UK (RTPI, 2012). Planners who do not adhere to the code may face disciplinary action. At worst, a planner may lose their membership and with it the designation ‘chartered’ town planner. Behaviour outside this code may be challenged and, in the worst case, professional planners may be removed from the membership of the professional body and, in the UK, lose the right to use the descriptor of a ‘chartered’ town planner.

Planners may have obligations to their employer, but does membership of a professional body confer an autonomous duty to society and to the practices of sustainability? RTPI members are required to undergo continuous professional development (CPD) to keep their skills up to date with changes in planning practice.

Planners operate within a political environment and for those directly employed in the public sector; this may give rise to pressures and tensions (Stocker and Thompson-Fawcett, 2014). Some commentators, like Kitchen (2007), have written extensively about this, while Kaiserman and colleagues (Ankers et al, 2010) created an imaginary and farcical local authority through which to explore the pressures of the public sector planner’s role.

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Author: Janice Morphet

Planners are employed almost equally in the private and the public sectors (RTPI, 2014). Most of the research and literature that specifically deals with planning and management issues is directed at the public sector and at its policy, planning and regulatory roles. In the private sector, advice for practitioners is available from the websites of professional bodies (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Royal Town Planning Institute and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development). It is also important to consider the management issues of professionals in specialist consulting and corporate organisations.

Planners are also active in the third ‘not for profit’ sector in community and charitable organisations (Wates and Knevitt, 2013). While the numbers of planners employed in the third sector is small, many planners also volunteer for planning aid activities. In the third sector, planners may also be involved in lobbying government or working within community technical aid or in development trusts directly with groups or individuals seeking to respond or participate on local issues (Warburton, 2013). These may range from a planning application, a local or neighbourhood plan or a national infrastructure project. This chapter discusses the ways in which planning is managed and delivered within organisations in each sector and at different scales of organisation.

Planning responsibilities in the public sector are held by a range of different bodies and organisations. These include central government and its agencies, local authorities including neighbourhood and parish councils, and national parks. Each of these organisations is accountable to democratically elected politicians and this is what distinguishes all public sector bodies from those in the private and voluntary sectors.

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Author: Janice Morphet

While much management activity is concerned with the day to day,

management has no choice but to anticipate the future, to attempt to mould it and to balance short-range and long-term goals. It is not given to mortals to do either of these things well. But lacking divine guidance, business management must make sure that these difficult responsibilities are not overlooked or neglected, but taken care of as humanly possible. (Drucker, 2011, p 8)

Strategic management is concerned with the long-term direction of any organisation, its objectives and associated business plans to achieve these ends. Strategic management will primarily be concerned with positive action for the organisation such as growth and development. At its core, strategic management makes decisions that will affect the organisation in the future. These actions may also be defensive such as preventing other organisations from taking market share by purchasing land or through other actions such as mergers and acquisitions.

Planning is a key element of strategic planning. If an organisation is planning growth, it may need more accommodation for production or delivery of services. Developers may take options to purchase land. Some organisations have large land holdings that have been in their ownership for hundreds of years and they will take a long-term view of their own development programme as patient investors.

Strategic management comprises of a number of components. First, there is a review of long-term objectives set in the context of the purpose of the organisation. This review may confirm the objectives or result in their amendment, following which the objectives will be implemented. Some organisations translate this objective-setting process into a mission statement that is then used to set organisational priorities (French et al, 2001; Fang et al, 2013).

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Author: Janice Morphet

Leadership and management in all organizations is concerned with sustainable practices and outcomes, that is managing with consideration for future generations. The principle of sustainability has grown in importance since the United Nations (UN) Earth Summit conference in Rio in 1992. The extent to which organisations embrace sustainable management varies: it may be embedded within the organisation’s culture, or it may be applied to specific actions. Sustainability may define the leadership of an organisation or it may be a compliance tool. Beyond this, corporate responsibility (CR) may be encouraged by shareholders, stakeholders and funders in all sectors where companies take responsibility for their impact on society (CEC, 2011). Finally, there is a strong relationship between planning, sustainability and risk management, whether in the context of environmental disaster management or employment practices. Not all risks are related to sustainability, however. This chapter considers all three issues, their relationships with each other and their role in planning leadership and management. All organisations, regardless of sector, must make a case for taking sustainable management measures above and beyond the statutory minimum. In the private sector, sustainable management may be of particular concern at various stages of the production and sales cycles (Holliday et al, 2002), for example in the choice of raw materials and energy used for production and in the logistics of delivering products to market. At each stage of the cycle, there are choices about methods used and each will have cost implications. The regulatory framework is set though international agreements and managed through large-scale trading groups such as the EU (Morphet, 2013).

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