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President's Blog March 2018

Date: 5/3/2018

In anticipation of the forthcoming passing on of the 'Presidential' baton to Paul Seddon, Nottingham's Chief Planner, in what will now only be a few months' time I was therefore chuffed to be asked to take on the Chairmanship of Planning Officer Society Enterprises (which you may usually see referenced in shorthand as POSe). This vacancy has arisen because Roger Hargreaves the long-standing Chairman has announced his intention to stand down from that role in June.

If you are not already familiar with the work of Enterprises it is the commercial arm of the Society which operates as a planning consultancy with a difference. That essential difference being that because of its direct relationship with the Society it expressly shares our public sector ethos with Enterprises specifically having the stated objective of supporting the effectiveness of the public sector planning function.

Enterprises was established in 2004 in order to provide dedicated support to local planning authorities and other public sector planning bodies.  Therefore as a distinct policy position Enterprises only works for public sector clients and whilst it does operate commercially its motivation isn't primarily based upon simply maximising profit as helping public sector planning teams to deliver excellence. On a daily basis Enterprises specifically looks to help public sector organisations by offering a variety of different types of support whether that be as a critical friend, a provider of specialist support or targeted training responses.

Operating under the Enterprises banner that support is provided by 'Associates' who are very highly experienced former public sector planners who can bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. As they come from a local government background you can take it as read that the Associates fully understand and appreciate the challenges and demands of working within a democratic planning system.  But even more importantly they are acknowledged experts in their particular fields and therefore able to offer the very best advice.

That depth and relevance of knowledge is also carried across into addressing any identified training needs.  Enterprises provide both targeted professional and elected member training and it consistently gets excellent feed-back from those authorities who've benefited from it.

Enterprises also supports several topic based learning groups which I think are very special initiatives in that they bring together planners from all across the country to share their experiences and to learn from the knowledge of both their peers and Enterprises expert facilitators.  There are dedicated learning groups including those for CIL and infrastructure, local planning, development management and, minerals and waste planning.  Evidence of their demonstrable value to participants is clear in that the authorities who are members of the groups tend come back year after year.

Additionally a new learning group is just in the process of being set up for planners who are being asked to support neighbourhood planning. The Government provides already quite a lot of help to Parish Councils and other qualifying bodies who are preparing neighbourhood plans, but to date there has been no dedicated support mechanism for those public sector planners who are supporting them. 

Enterprises is a successful business model in that its activities also generate an income for the benefit of the Society as a whole and over the last few years Enterprises has typically generated a dividend of over £20K. Because the Planning Officers Society is a registered charity that is run entirely for the benefit of its membership, all profits generated by Enterprises commercial activities thereby directly come back to support the work of the Society. As a pertinent example of this the additional income generated over the last few years has funded the programme of free regional workshops as a means of showcasing best practice to the wider public sector.

This is important because as resources become increasingly tight for all local planning authorities I think that it will becomes even more important that public sector planning teams can continue to access best practice and peer support. Having regard to the fundamental challenges that are currently facing every public sector planning service, please have a think about this. By engaging with and retaining the services of Enterprises you will not only get access to the best possible advice but you will also be supporting the ongoing wellbeing of the whole sector.

In conclusion I'm a firm believer that the planning system only works well if there is an appropriate balance of expertise and abilities on both sides of the negotiating table. Enterprises, via all the forms of support it can readily offer, is a powerful tool that can certainly help the public sector to redress any perceived imbalances.

Anyway don't take my word for it, as I'm obviously going to be rather biased, please take the time to have a look for yourselves and talk to colleagues who have already benefitted from Enterprises support. You can also get directly in touch in order to see what the team at Enterprises could specifically offer you. As part of the general upgrade to POS's web presence Enterprises will have a new website which will provide more details about all of its services.  In the meantime you can either access much more information at or by contacting Andrew Wright (who is Enterprises General Manager) at

Steve Ingram, President 2017/18

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