What is Town Planning?

on Thursday, 01 July 2021.

What is Town Planning?

Town Planning relates to the set of laws and policies which shapes and governs what kind of development is allowed to occur in the UK. Fundamentally, Town Planning avoids unacceptable buildings being erected and prevents harm to neighbourhood or habitats by imposing a set of rules which we must follow.

There are laws that protect the historic and natural environment, whilst other legislation allows you to make changes to your house or build or develop land without planning permission (the General Permitted Development Order). There are also policies in place, which all planning applications should accord with. Each part of the UK has its own set of national policies, which Local Councils need to reflect and follow.

Here in England, we have the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The aim of the NPPF is achieving sustainability, which means balancing environmental, social, and economic issues. The Government wants to ensure places are sustainable so that they benefit us but also future generations.

For development to be sustainable and acceptable, it must accord with the laws and policies. Usually, this means you must apply to the Local Planning Authority (your Council) for planning permission, where they tell you whether you can proceed with your proposal or not. If planning permission is required, an application must be submitted, where the Local Planning Authority will examine your proposal, consulting the relevant professionals and neighbours and a decision will be issued.

What is a Town Planner?

A Town Planner is a professional who specialises in all matters relating to Town Planning. They understand the laws and policies which shapes the places we live in. There are Town Planners at the Local Planning Authority, and they are usually the Planning Officers who examine proposals and issue planning decisions and who creates planning policy at the Council. However, there are also Town Planners who work privately (such as at Atlas Planning Group), who offer their skills and expertise to help achieve planning permission by understanding how and where buildings should be built or what land should be used for.

Achieving planning permission is not always straightforward as town planning needs to balance the environmental, social, and economic issues. Therefore, Town Planners work with a range of other built environment professionals to ensure that proposals are acceptable. These professionals range from ecologists, tree consultants, flood risk engineers, highway specialists and heritage consultants. Town Planners also work closely with architects, advising them on their designs to ensure that the scheme is looked upon favourably.

A Town Planner must therefore be creative and innovative to find solutions to various constraints. Although ultimately, they seek to create a high-quality built environment that accords with all relevant legislation and policy.

Responsibilities of town planners

It is the responsibility of a town planner to step back and look and the bigger picture when considering a development project. They must look at the site’s constraints and what would constitute good design, preserving the natural and historic environment, whilst meeting all relevant policies and legislation. To do this, Planners involve the local community wherever possible, and most importantly ensure all plans are inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.

As Town Planning surrounds every type of development, a town planner can be responsible for major projects (windfarms, creating new towns and villages) to small householder schemes (extensions, alterations).

However, whatever size, a Town Planner is responsible for

  • Examining local and national planning policy, understanding site constraints
  • Considering local communities and businesses
  • Preserving the natural environment by safeguarding protected species and land
  • Conserving the historic environment, including listed buildings and conservation areas
  • Avoiding long term implications, such as flooding
  • Ensuring high-quality design by working with architects and other built environment professionals
  • Delivering sustainable development

These actions will hopefully create well-designed places, and which ensure communities and individuals have access to homes, jobs, and facilities including schools, hospitals, and open spaces for existing and future generations.

What to do if you need advice

Are you struggling to know where to start with a new planning project? At Atlas Planning, our chartered consultants have a wide range of experience supporting clients across the south of England and deal with a variety of projects within multiple sectors, enabling us to tirelessly pursue our client’ goals. Allow us to de-mystify the planning process for you with our specialist planning services, including class Q fallback applications and planning appeals. Contact us today for further guidance and support, we will be happy to help.


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