Will Brexit create New Job Opportunities in the Town Planning Industry?

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Will Brexit create New Job Opportunities in the Town Planning Industry?

Over the next few years, it is inevitable that the Town Planning industry, alongside much of the UK, will be affected by the political, legal and economic implications of Brexit. Although the full impact of these changes will remain unclear until the specific terms of Britain’s departure from the EU are decided, there is evidence to suggest that rather than having a negative impact upon Town Planning, the long-term effects are unlikely to drastically alter the industry. Furthermore, there is the potential for a variety of Town Planning job opportunities to open up as a result of the changing economic and political climate.

On the 23rd June 2016, 51.9% of the British voting population voted in favour of leaving the European Union. The ultimate impact that Brexit will have upon the future of planning and development sectors within the UK is currently largely unknown, and will depend upon the decisions that are made during the leaving process over the next two years. President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Phil Williams, has stated that this uncertainty is based upon the fact that as no country has left the EU before, “it is not clear what impact the decision will have on planning related EU law and directives that have been transposed into national legislation”.

One thing that is clear, however, is that the impact of Brexit on the UK planning system would depend on whether a total Brexit was achieved, or the UK retained access to the single market (through the EEA or EFTA). If the UK remains inside the single market, the ability to influence future EU policy would be limited, despite the fact that most EU laws would still need to be adhered to within the UK. Outside of the single market, EU laws and policies would no longer apply. A large proportion of the planning system in the UK is intertwined with European law, meaning that in the absence of the EU laws that have provided a strong framework for the built environment sector, there would be legislative gaps that will need to be filled by either national or local governments. Opinions within the Town Planning industry are likely to diverge as to which of these options would be most beneficial for its future.

Furthermore, there are fears over a reduction in the amount of funding that is available for future developments in the town planning sector.Mark Granger, chief executive at Carter Jonas, said: “The potential loss of access to funding for major infrastructure and regeneration projects in the near future will be of great concern to the planning and development sectors.” If these large-scale projects lose financial support as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, Granger fears that there may be an additional pressure placed upon the public sector to identify alternative sources of funding. However, although he predicts that the demand for the development of high-end residential and commercial properties may fall in the short-term, Granger adds positively that “a fall in sterling could make UK property an attractive proposition to foreign investors.”

Although concerns have been raised surrounding the funding of major projects, there do not seem to be widespread fears about the long-term impact of Brexit on the future of town planning. This has been illustrated in how developers have been assessing ongoing London property schemes over the past few days.Judith Evans from the Financial Times reported that planned property developments, including a 62-storey City skyscraper and two London projects by the Queen’s property company, the Crown Estate, had been reassessed after the UK’s vote to leave the EU. The two projects, Morley House and Duke’s Court, have been granted planning permission but have yet to start construction. However, it is significant that the Crown Estate has stated that there has been no change to the long-term plan for these projects. Although this demonstrates that the planning industry is approaching the immediate impact of Brexit with caution, it appears that leaving the EU should not damage town planning in the UK in the long run. It will be interesting to see whether this is the experience of those in Town Planning across the UK.

It is becoming evident that the effects of Brexit may actually broaden the range of job opportunities that are available within the Town Planning industry. The potential for a period of economic uncertainty will mean that making accurate investment decisions on staffing, upgrades, developments and projects will become even more important. Accordingly, the UK planning industry may increasingly seek individuals who are able to undertake economic investment assessments and provide economic advice, such as Planning Economists. There is a strong possibility that Planning and Economics departments may become more common over the coming months as planning organisations require a deeper understanding of the effects of Brexit on their sector.

Furthermore, financial uncertainty among developers, agencies and councils may lead to an increase in the number of contract roles that become available in the Town Planning industry. In order to lower the costs that permanent contracts would entail, short-term positions provide organisations with an element of flexibility in terms of the investment in an employee and the length of employment. Councils in particular may offer a greater number of these contract roles whilst waiting to assess the full impact that Brexit may have on the health of the industry.

So, how will Brexit affect your organisation or personal career path? Whether you are a developer, member of a planning consultancy or work in the public sector of Town Planning, we would be interested to hear your views on the impact of this move. Are you now looking to appoint more interim staff than previously, or looking into the possibility of hiring a Planning Economist?

* Lewis Davey is a specialist Recruitment Consultancy operating in both the Public and Private Sector. Please call 020 7859 4246 to discuss this article or to discuss your future career options in Town Planning.

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