A day in the life of a Chief Planning Officer (RTPI Blog)

Earlier in the year, I visited Salford City Council as part of RTPI’s Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative. Here was a blog I wrote as part of the project. 

I was glad to hear that I had been awarded the chance to spend the day with Chris Findley, the Assistant Director for Planning and Housing at Salford City Council. RTPI’s Chief Planners of Tomorrow presented an exciting chance hear his perspective on the issues facing Local Planning Authorities (LPA), to get an understanding of the corporate culture and to sit in on meetings between him and other Chief Planners of the Manchester’s LPAs

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As a young planner working at the Planning and Architecture Division of the Scottish Government, the initiative was my first big chance to see a day in the life at a Local Planning Authority, especially one near my hometown (Stockport). Consequently, I was excited to see how the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities (GMCA) were handling the process of their upcoming Spatial Framework, which will guide developments in area up to 2037.


Chris chairs the Greater Manchester Planning Officers Group as current Planning Lead for the AGMA. We started our morning meeting with other Chief Officers across the area. Here I learnt about some of the pressing issues in the run up to enacting a Spatial Framework under the devolved powers arrangement. It was enjoying to listen to the concerns of LPAs in the area and was surprise at the similarities facing the ongoing City Deal. In fact, over the course of the day, conversation topics cropped up that would not have been out of place North of the border!


After this, we briefly walked through the city and Chris guided me through the challenges and opportunities facing the area. Salford and Manchester are ever-changing cities, currently witnessing a surfeit of development. It is important that Greater Manchester is a healthy place to live and development is a sustainable manner that benefits everyone. The big challenges facing Greater Manchester are similar to other fast growing cities in the UK.

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Our final stop was Salford Council Offices where we met with other senior members of staff for a weekly business round up. With my current role focussing on planning performance, it was fascinating to see how Local Authorities are responding to feedback and improving their service delivery in spite of budget cuts and other challenges to long term development.

Young planners need all the experience they can get to thrive in a field as generalist as planning. I enjoyed hearing about the challenges facing Chief Planners and learning how such major decisions are being made. We need more mentoring opportunities for the planning sector to build its resilience against growing skills gaps. And so I look forward to hearing about similar chances in the future. I would recommend the Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative to any Young Planner.


This post was written as part of RTPI’s Chief Planners of Tomorrow Initiative. More information is available on https://www.rtpi.org.uk/knowledge/networks/young-planners/chief-planners-of-tomorrow/. If you are interested in getting involved subscribe to our newsletter and keep your eyes peeled for the latest RTPI opportunities.