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Shortage of Planning & Regeneration Professionals in Place

by Dino Christodoulou


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Local government plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of communities, cities, and regions through planning and regeneration initiatives. These efforts are essential for sustainable development, infrastructure improvement, and economic growth. However, an increasingly common and concerning issue faced by local authorities across the UK is the shortage of planning and regeneration staff. This shortage not only weighs down the ability to effectively address urban challenges but also jeopardises the long-term well-being of communities, which in turn impacts council finances.

Some of the most common challenges faced by local authority planning and regeneration services areas include:

1.Overburdened Workforce: One of the primary reasons for the shortage of planning and regeneration staff in local government is the increasing demand for their services. Rapid development, population growth, and the need for more sustainable and resilient cities have placed an immense burden on these professionals. As a result, existing staff members often find themselves stretched thin, leading to burnout, decreased morale, and lower job satisfaction. This overburdened workforce can impact the quality and efficiency of planning and regeneration projects.

2.Competitive Job Market: The field of planning and regeneration has become highly competitive, making it challenging for local authorities to attract and retain qualified professionals. Skilled planners and regeneration experts are in high demand not only in the public sector but also in private consulting firms. The attraction of potentially higher salaries and more diverse career opportunities in the private sector can make it difficult for local authorities to compete.

3.Retirement Wave: Another critical factor contributing to the staff shortage is the impending retirement wave among experienced planning and regeneration professionals. Many long-serving employees in local government are approaching retirement age, and there is often a lack of succession planning in place to train and prepare the next generation of experts. The loss of institutional knowledge and expertise can be detrimental to the effectiveness of planning and regeneration efforts.

4.Budget Constraints: Local authorities often operate under tight budget constraints, which can limit their ability to hire and retain planning and regeneration staff. Budget cuts and fiscal limitations have forced many local authorities to reduce staff sizes or freeze hiring, exacerbating the existing shortage. In such cases, the workload falls on fewer individuals, leading to decreased productivity and project delays.

5.Complex Regulatory Environment: The planning and regeneration field is subject to a complex web of regulations, laws, and processes. Navigating this regulatory landscape requires a deep understanding of legal and procedural intricacies. The shortage of qualified staff can lead to delays in project approvals, increased compliance risks, and potential legal challenges.

The shortage of planning and regeneration staff in local government is a multifaceted challenge that can have far-reaching implications for the future of towns, cities, and their communities. It can also lead to Homes England and the Central Government increasing their concerns about their capacity to deliver capital programmes, which in turn impacts funding packages. Addressing this issue requires a multi-pronged approach, including investing in education and training programmes, offering competitive salaries, and developing succession plans. This approach is a medium-long-term solution, so exploring other solutions, such as utilising the interim market, holds significant promise. Interim managers and directors, with their wealth of experience and expertise, can bridge the gap caused by staff shortages. They offer several advantages, including immediate availability, a fresh perspective, and a focus on results.

By tapping into the pool of candidates within the interim market, local government can temporarily bolster their teams, providing crucial support during peak workloads, helping maintain project timelines, and ensuring that essential tasks are not neglected. Additionally, their interim presence allows local government to benefit from specialised skills without the long-term financial commitments associated with full-time staff.

Incorporating interim managers and directors into the workforce strategy can mitigate the impact of staff shortages while providing an opportunity to inject new talent, ideas, and strategies into planning and regeneration initiatives and prove to be a valuable and agile resource for achieving long-term community well-being.

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