Has Brexit Finally Caught Up With The Planning Profession?


Over the last two and a half years it’s been fair to say that the planning profession has shown remarkable resilience to outside forces, most notably Brexit. Taking the correct long-term view, after the referendum result planning consultancies and developers continued to push to grow as much as possible. The public sector remained in need of good consultants and was still recruiting. The UK was in a housing crisis and the planning community had the opportunity to take the lead in providing a remedy for it.

But has this finally changed, and is there still opportunity for growth?


Brexit Overview
Let’s briefly review the drawn-out timeline of Brexit events:

  • 2016, 23rd June - UK votes to leave EU in referendum
  • 2017, 29th March - Theresa May formally triggered Article 50, beginning a 2 year countdown for the UK to leave.
  • 2019, 14th March - After a tumultuous 2 year period of failed negotiations, House of Commons votes to reject the Prime Minister’s deal.
  • 2019, 20th March - The government sought to extend Article 50 and agree a later Brexit date, with the PM writing to European Council President Donal Tusk. Some short term extension dates are provided.
  • 2019, 2nd April - Theresa May announced she’ll be seeking a further extension as continued negotiations prove fruitless.
  • 2019, 10th April - The UK and EU agree to extend Article 50 to 31st October 2019.

In the planning industry, the day after the referendum vote I know many developers instantly put pause on major projects across the UK. A friend at a large international construction company had a client pull out midway through the building of his latest development, he was told UK investment was now going to Paris. But as I mentioned in my opening paragraph, planning proved to be resilient to this news.

When Theresa May triggered Article 50 in 2017, many industries took note that Brexit was actually going to happen and that there was now a deadline for them to work towards. Inevitably this led many to plan ahead by streamlining, making redundancies and significantly tempering growth plans. Despite this, the planning sector once more barely took notice. There were fewer hires client side but consultancies continued to plan for growth and recruit, as did the public sector.

While other industries stumbled, sometimes overreacting, sometimes not, the planning profession continued looking ahead as stable as ever.

Which brings me to 2019…

After the inevitable boom in recruitment that you always see in January (with many coming back after their holidays not wanting to return to their jobs), the growth of planning teams across the UK has tailed off – and for the first time, Brexit is being labelled the main culprit.

It appears now that a large number of developers and consultancies are no longer growing their planning teams, either hitting pause while we go through the final steps of actually leaving, or being far more stringent in what they are looking for. However, with the agreement to push it back to the end of October, is this the right strategy? Possibly – but in this hiring recess there are some companies that are seeing an opportunity.

This opportunity comes in that there are a good number of very talented planners at consultant level (1-4 years post qualification experience) that are looking for work. Before 2019 they were snapped up rapidly, but slower, tougher decision making has left very good planners on the market. Opportunistic consultancies are getting me to look out for this talent, moving quickly when it’s sourced. This doesn’t mean rushing interviews, but it does mean prioritising it. As a result, some aspirational consultancies are now looking at 2019 as a great year to build a foundation of high-quality planners to grow from over the next 5 years.

The other opportunity at hand? For planners who are considering a move but are unsure if it’s the right time…it definitely is! The consultancies looking aren’t doing so on a whim, in fact, they may well be thinking further ahead than some of their counterparts. I’m regularly cited ‘better the devil you know’, but opportunistic planners see that growth may have slowed but hasn’t stagnated. For those career minded, 2019 could well be the year to take your career to the next level.

Has Brexit finally caught up with the planning profession? 
Simply put, yes, Brexit is often impacting growth now. But does this mean the exciting, career or business changing opportunities aren’t out there anymore? Absolutely not – in fact now might just be the best time to make a move and take your company or career to new heights.

Written by Freddie Bell

Head of Planning & Architecture 

0207 960 2583 | frb@mattpart.com

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Royal Town Planning Institute.

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Land Securities Group Plc.

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Urban Land Institute.

In partnership with Urban Land Institute we are able to play an imperative role in creating a larger and more diverse pool of candidates within the planning & property professions. Working in schools we take part in the Urban Plan Educational workshops programme, which has now reached more than 2,500 pupils in 100 schools since its launch. Alongside more than 200 industry volunteers engaged across the country, we provide invaluable industry & careers advice to students while guiding them through their workshops and helping judge their presentations.

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