What is a City Planner?
A city planner, also known as an urban planner, is a professional responsible for designing, developing urban areas.
Using their knowledge of the wishes of local communities and the economic and political realities of a region, city planners can create appropriate plans for the development or redevelopment of an urban area.
Understanding the role of a city planner can help you decide whether this is the career for you.
In this blog, we look at the role of a city planner in more detail. We delve deeper into why people work in city planning, a city planner's roles and responsibilities, and the skills and qualifications you need to succeed in this role.
Why do people work in city planning?
There are various reasons why individuals work in city planning. In today's society, where climate change and ecological factors are considerations that many people consider when deciding where to live, you can play an essential role in creating a sustainable local environment as a city planner.
City planners can use their specialist knowledge to create innovative approaches to developing a local area, ensuring the environment is inclusive and environmentally friendly. The direct impact that city planners have on the local community is a significant reason why many choose to go down this career path.
Key Roles and Responsibilities of a City Planner
City planners play a vital role in creating and maintaining livable, sustainable, and functional urban environments.Their primary responsibility is to ensure that cities are functional, livable, and sustainable.
They work closely with government officials, developers, and community members to plan and implement projects that improve the quality of life in urban areas.
One of the critical roles of a city planner is to develop comprehensive plans for the development of a city. This involves assessing the city's current state and identifying improvement areas.
City planners must consider a wide range of factors, including population growth, infrastructure needs, economic development, and environmental sustainability, to create a feasible, realistic plan that meets the needs of the community.
Another important responsibility of a city planner is to work with developers to ensure that new projects comply with zoning and land use regulations. This involves reviewing development proposals, conducting site inspections, and negotiating with developers to ensure that their projects meet the community's needs and align with the city's development goals.
City planners also play a vital role in community outreach. They promote community involvement in the planning process by holding public meetings, seeking feedback from residents, and working with community groups to develop plans that reflect the needs and desires of residents.
They must also stay up-to-date with emerging trends and technologies in urban planning as well as being familiar with the latest research on topics such as green infrastructure, sustainable transportation, and affordable housing. This enables city planners to create effective and sustainable plans over the long term.
The City Planner Landscape
The city planning industry is rapidly evolving, with several trends emerging.
Sustainability is a significant trend shaping how city planners approach modern-day design and development.
Every city planner needs to consider the need for communities to be sustainable in terms of energy efficiency, including renewable energy sources, and improving local air quality through traffic reduction.
Changes in technology and transportation are also altering the city planning process. More urban residents are moving to use electric vehicles or public transport systems; these factors must be incorporated into any city planning design, ensuring that any plan incorporates the future requirements of an urban living environment.
Consideration of different forms of technology is becoming more paramount in city planning. For example, using smart lighting systems means street lights ensure local communities can be more energy efficient. Ensuring local infrastructure includes new technological advances helps meet residents' needs and any changes to local living guidelines.
A specific focus on mixed-use housing and the design of green public spaces are also factors that city planners must consider. Encouraging diverse housing and social spaces ensures that people from all backgrounds can come together, fostering a broader sense of community.
With the UN predicting that the population of people living in cities is expected to increase to 68% by 2050, easily accessible green public spaces are an essential consideration for all city planners. In providing a green approach for local communities, city planners contribute to lessening social isolation by providing a place where people can gather and build networks and connections.
Resilience is a relatively new concept in the field of city planning. Recent changes to weather patterns have brought with it the need for city planners to ensure their design, development, and re-design of urban areas factors in an element of resilience.
The need for cities to recover quickly from excessive rain that causes floods, heavy snowfall, or natural disasters is becoming increasingly important. Ensuring the local infrastructure can deal with extremes of weather so that local communities can better deal with these situations is a factor that city planners can assist with their planning.
Essential Skills and Qualifications for a City Planner
To work as a city planner, individuals must first study for and obtain a degree in a subject related to city planning, such as planning, environment and development, town planning, or urban planning.
To increase their employment prospects, many individuals study for a postgraduate qualification accredited by a professional body such as the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) to gain further experience and capabilities in city planning.
The responsibilities of a city planner are diverse and require a broad range of skills and knowledge to be effective. All city planners must have the enthusiasm and an understanding of urban planning and development principles and how to apply them to specific contexts.
Secondly, communication skills are paramount for a city planner.
They must articulate complex concepts and ideas to various stakeholders, including government officials, community leaders, developers, and the public. Strong listening skills are also necessary to understand the concerns and needs of these stakeholders.
Creativity and innovation are essential qualities for any city planner. They must be able to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions to complex problems. This requires an open mind and a willingness to explore new ideas and technologies.
A city planner must be a team player. Collaborating with others is crucial in city planning. Working with multiple stakeholders, including architects, engineers, economists, and environmentalists, means all city planners must have strong team working skills, as the ability to work effectively in a team and to lead when necessary is vital.
Finally, city planners also need to be committed to developing their commercial awareness. They must strive to create environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically prosperous cities. This requires a deep understanding of the needs of diverse communities, commitment to inclusivity, and the desire to continually develop their learning.
Pathways to Becoming a City Planner
Most individuals working as city planners have gained a degree in a subject related to city planning. Undergraduate degrees typically take three years to complete; some courses may take longer if the course includes a business placement.
There are, however, alternative routes for those looking to get into this field.
Candidates who decide to pursue a career in city planning but do not have a relevant degree can study for a postgraduate qualification in city of urban planning. Postgraduate qualifications take one to two years, depending on the course format.
Individuals who do not or can not consider the university route, for example, for financial reasons, can complete an apprenticeship in a city or town planning subject.
Apprenticeships offered by employers allow individuals to work in their chosen field while building up their skills and experience while studying for a qualification in their chosen field.
Candidates applying for apprenticeships must have obtained a minimum of five GCSEs or equivalent in grades A-C to be eligible for entry into an apprenticeship program.
Those that don't qualify either at a degree or apprenticeship level can start their career in this field by working as a planning technician in a specialist area of city planning. This route requires individuals to work and combine their roles with independent study to become qualified.
Building up relevant work experience in an entry-level role, with specialist experience in areas such as housing, transportation, or disaster recovery, ensures individuals contribute to the city planning process while developing their skills and expertise.
What does the career ladder for a city planner look like?
The career ladder for those wishing to develop their career as a city planner specialist is promising.
Those without a formal postgraduate qualification start their career in entry-level planning technician roles. Candidates at this level have background knowledge of the city planning process and well-developed IT and communication skills.
Following 3 - 4 years, when individuals have developed their understanding and practical working knowledge of city planning and planning principles, they move onto a planner/associate planner level.
The senior planner stage is reached once individuals have consolidated their city planning knowledge, have participated in large-scale planning projects, and have a detailed understanding of planning laws. Many senior planners have also gained further professional accreditation in city planning or have completed a postgraduate qualification in this field. The transition from associate to senior planner can take up to three years.
Senior planners also have a supervisory role, managing planning technicians and associate planners.
Those with over five years of experience at the senior planner level progress to the principal planner or team leader level. For those wishing to progress their career into senior management, chief planner, head of department role, or director level roles are options individuals can consider.
What are the average city planning working hours?
The average working hours of a city planner vary according to the sector you work in. Generally, city planners work to a standard 9 am - 5 pm working pattern. It is also essential to consider the responsibilities of a city planner in community outreach and engagement. This can mean city planners work after 5 pm or on weekends to ensure they attend meetings with the local community or relevant project stakeholders.
As in many professions, individuals in senior positions can expect to work longer than 9 am - 5 pm.
What is the average salary for a city planner?
Starting salaries for graduate or assistant planner level range from £18000 to £25000. The average salary for an established city planner in a senior planner role ranges from £30 000 - £45,000.
Those in senior roles, such as chief planners or department heads, can command salaries anywhere from ca £55,000 upwards.
What are the best companies to apply for city planning?
When choosing a company, it is essential to consider your long-term career aspirations along with the culture and values of each company. In doing so, you ensure you apply to a company that fits your values and working ethos.
Examples of companies that offer roles within the city planner field include Local government and Highways England, along with consultancy firms such as AECOM and Mott McDonald. The assessment process for city planning roles often follows a structured assessment process.