What’s a planning consultant and do I need one?

Planning consultants offer a wide range of advice on all matters concerned with planning, development and environmental issues which surround a building project. They will deliver their expertise so as to make the planning as cost effective as possible, and to ensure that the planning and production of the project runs smoothly.

Planning consultants can range from being actively involved with all stages of the planning, or merely be an outside expert who helps guide decisions.

The roles of a planning consultant

Planning consultants are involved in a number of different types of projects, for example town centre improvements, business parks, airports or smaller building works for companies. In all of these projects the planning consultants operates as the following roles:

  • Firstly, the planning consultant acts as a trainer, explaining what all parts of the process will entail.
  • Next, they act as a facilitator providing assistance as to how to proceed through the developments.
  • They also function as a instructor, providing guidance as to what are the best decisions and routes to make.
  • Another of their purposes is to be a strategist, laying out what approach should be taken.
  • Next, they act as a promoter, actively endorsing certain ideas.
  • Finally, they operate as a stakeholder as they have vested interests in what the outcome of the project will be.

What areas of planning does a consultant look after?

A planning consultant can be as involved as you need them to be, but typically the main areas which they would look after are:

  • The submission of planning applications, and if these planning applications are then refused they would then conduct the appeal against this. Therefore, the planning consultant will often need to have local knowledge as well as legal expertise.
  • If the project is large, then there will often be the need for a Local Plan Inquiry, or public examinations of the plan. The planning consultant will be responsible for organising these, and act as the representative at such meetings.
  • The planning consultant will perform market research into the feasibility of the development, which will range from planning applications to investigations into what land is available for sale.
  • The consultant is responsible for creating all development and design briefs, which will be given to all contractors and participants in the project. This will be written with the project designer based on their ideas.
  • The planning consultant has to research and assess what the impacts of the planned project would be on the environment. The results of this assessment will greatly sway whether or not the project will be able to be completed. The consultant also has to research policies that are held by the local government which may hinder the production process.
  • If the results of these are suitable and planning application is granted, then the consultant will start to draw up master plans of the project which will be used by the contractors.
  • Some consultants will stop here, whereas others will be involved throughout the building process to ensure that it is following the plans and that there are no technical hitches.

As the client, what steps do I need to take?

  • Firstly you need to identify what you need the planning consultant for. This will indicate how involved you want them to be and also highlight what you need their roles to be in the planning and building processes.
  • Next you may invite a number of planning consultants to look at the project and assess the nature and scale of the issues at stake so as to see which is best. This will also help to identify what the main problems which you will need to tackle will be.
  • When you have chosen a planning consultant, you need to initially discuss at the outset what the job will entail. This ensures that you both have an accurate picture of the project and have a mutual understanding of how the project will proceed.

What qualifications/skills should I look out for when selecting a planning consultant?

The most vital institute which all accredited planning consultants must be a member of is the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Membership of this institute is an internationally acknowledged symbol of expert aptitude and proficiency. Make sure you investigate the level of experience that the planning consultant or firm has, and what their knowledge is of the local area.

How much will it cost?

This is really dependent on the size of the project and how much you want the planning consultant to be involved in the process. The level of expertise of the consultant will also manipulate this price, especially if the project requires specialist knowledge. Make sure that you get the full and final quote of the cost of the consultant's fees before you proceed with their employment.

Where should I look for a planning consultant?

The RTPI website has a list of all accredited planning consultants so is the first port of call when you are looking for a planning consultant. The website also segments these planning consultants into what their area of expertise is for ease of reference. It is also advisable to ask other companies or people who have used planning consultants before to see if they can recommend someone.

What should I ask a planning consultant?

  • How much will your services cost?
  • Have you ever worked on a similar project?
  • What is your level of expertise on the local area?
  • How long have you been practising as a planning consultant?
  • Will you be able to provide the necessary staff at the appropriate time?

2 comments on “What’s a planning consultant and do I need one?

  1. Peter Eves on

    We are looking for a planning consultant to advise our residents group on whether our development road has been designed in accordance with the Manual for Streets.

    How much would this advice cost as the residents will have to pay!

    Reply

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