Planning: say yes!

My final act of eighteen months at PAS as the Comms Manager is to write a blog about what I’ve learned about planning. I knew next to nothing at the start – now I’m a little bit wiser… but not a lot.

Of course, it’s the large developments that get the headlines – and certainly get the public’s attention. It’s a tough old business. More houses are needed, but hardly anyone would welcome development in their area. But this you all know.

Being a local authority planner could be seen as rather like being a football referee – as long as the decisions go someone’s way they hardly notice the referee; but the moment it doesn’t…

Politics really does get in the way. In a perfect planning world politics would be taken out of planning and ‘vote for me cos I’ll block this’ would be outlawed. (As Adam Dodgshon has previously blogged about.) But this ain’t gonna happen. Sadly.

One of my favourite words is ‘however’. However, local authority planners can and do wear white hats. (However can be such an uplifting word!)

Local authority planners can be involved in some truly inspiring projects and can bring joy to hundreds or even thousands. I live in a new-build flat and I love it… so thanks developers and thanks local authority planners who helped make this happen. Areas can be literally redeveloped. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all those unused horrible looking brownfield or wasteland sites could be something colourful and beneficial to communities – you can make this happen!

Another of my favourite words is ‘yes’. Even better if it’s ‘Yes!’ From what I’ve picked up, it would be great if more often planners said:

– Yes! to pre-app engagement

– Yes! to embracing technology to keep customers informed (which saves time and money)

– Yes! to actively engaging communities on projects

– Yes! to forming regional groups to learn from each other and share best practice

– Yes! to writing more in the style of Hemingway (sparse prose, rather than wordy and rambly)

– Yes! to using the superb (and free) help on offer from PAS. (I couldn’t resist.)

In summary, it can be a frustrating business, for sure, but if you persevere you can help build something long-lasting. And not many folk can say that.


You are not alone

This blog isn’t about a Michael Jackson song – although it may well be in your head now. It’s aimed at helping you care and share.

Derek Trotter was occasionally wise. I agree that ‘no man is an island’ – and this goes for work as well as relationships.

Sometimes the obvious needs stating: Whatever it is you’re working on or trying to figure out; it’s likely someone else in planning has gone through the same thing. The beauty of communication, including social media, is that you are encouraged to tap into the brains of other humans.

If you have a quandary, that your co-workers can’t shed much light upon, then do post it on our forum, hosted on the Knowledge Hub. Over 2,300 folk interested in planning are members, so that’s a lot of brains which may be able to assist. One post ‘Persistent Under Delivery and the NPPG’ has had 8082 views and 49 replies!

I am biased, but asking PAS is another route. Our consultants work regionally so check the ‘Meet the team’ section on our website to see who covers your region. Or if you’re unsure, email: We’ve supported around 90% of LPAs in England over the last 12 months – we’d like to support 100%.

Lloyd Alexander

Do you know if there’s a regional planning group in your area? These are wonderful forums to ideas share/problem solve and can even help with that oh so tricky duty to cooperate. If you’re unsure, then contact us. If there isn’t one, maybe set one up?

A more hit-and-miss route is Twitter. If you’re not a Tweeter, then I recommend giving it a go… follow fellow planners (including PAS)… and see about building a trusted network that way. We have almost 1,500 followers and love to hear what our audience thinks of what we do and how we do it.

Of course, there are other forums, LinkedIn etc. that you can tap into – but from my experience you’re better off sticking with just a few sources, otherwise you can get overloaded.

The message of this blog is that you’re only ever a phone call, email or a click or two away from reaching someone who shares your planning joy/pain. Platforms are there to be tapped into, so it seems unwise not to.


As I am finding, Planning is a very busy industry. When busy, people often lose track of why they do the work they do. So, I ‘encouraged’ PAS folk to down tools (well, stop typing) and consider their employment for a few minutes.

The result was that we #loveplanning. Okay, no one actually mentioned the hashtag – but this is a good way to group together the love for our work using social media. Over the next few weeks we shall be tweeting just why we #loveplanning. You can follow us via @pas_team. Feel free to tweet us and share why you do using this hashtag.

Twitter doesn’t leave too much space for words, so some more lengthy reasons are below. Again, feel free to add your own via the comments box at the bottom of this blog.

We #loveplanning and we hope you do too.

Alice Lester: I #loveplanning as you get to dream things, think about things, improve things, deliver things. Your decisions can have a lasting impact on many people, both now and in the future. It is a force for good, managing change in a way that improves the environment.

Martin Hutchings: I #loveplanning as it can’t be tamed; it divides and unites, is the problem and solution, the question and answer, the beauty and the beast. But we try… we try…

Nicholas Wardle: I #loveplanning as the people are so passionate about what we do. There’s a real drive to improve the world in which we live in – and few other industries can shape our surrounds as much.

Phillipa Silcock: I #loveplanning as it reconciles need, demand and willingness in a real world jigsaw. There’s no picture to refer to or need to negotiate with each piece; persuade them to fit together.