The 2014/15 Guide to rounding up, exaggerations, and outright porkies…

It’s getting close to the time of year when Planning magazine runs its survey of planning consultancies. It’s the annual opportunity for all those multi-disciplinary environmental consultancies and agencies that have three planners left amongst them to pull the wool over the eyes of the editor and state with absolute confidence that they employ 300 planners, and expect to double their in-take for the next twelve months.

I really should rise above this farce, but the competitor in me struggles to do so. We’ve genuinely grown exponentially over the last four or five years. We’ve gone from nine people to over 50, and show no signs of slowing up. However, if you believe Planning, we’re the joint 423rd ‘biggest’ consultancy, sharing that honour with G-Plan (I think they’re a Guernsey based outfit, but I can’t be certain).

You can’t really blame some of the so-called big boys for gilding the lily. They’ve had a bad recession. They have shareholders to report to.

But it paints a completely disproportionate image of where the profession is, and where it’s going. Professionals are not working for, or joining, corporates in their droves. They are joining the likes of Iceni, setting up on their own, working across different platforms. Add up the number of planners that the companies responding to this year’s survey purport to employ; now compare that with the number of planners registered to the RTPI. Do the numbers tally? I think not. So how can a graduate, prospective candidate, local authority or client gain any sense of the fettle in which the company is in? How can a university looking at its intake for planning courses reconcile what he or she is seeing at the end of a four year course with what Planning is citing to be the case?

I don’t expect Planning magazine to be pushing the boundaries of Watergate, but a bit of investigative journalism wouldn’t go a miss. What do the recruitment consultants say about the companies issuing their untested information? Does it correlate with what candidates – and their own eyes – are telling them? What do local authorities and developers say about the consultants they are working with? Or solicitors? Or barristers? Are any of these groups really seeing the evidence of what the survey claims to be fact?

We will give honest answers again, so turn to page two of the survey to see where we feature…

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