A planning and development surveyor researches a range of factors to best advise clients on their development and investment choices

Planning and development surveyors advise on all aspects of planning and development in both the public and private sectors. Taking into account a range of complex economic, social and environmental factors they provide their clients with critical information to help them make informed choices about investment.

Such expertise is particularly critical where development funds are coming from the public purse and careful planning and financial consideration needs to be evidenced. The advice surveyors give on issues such as site planning, development, conservation and transport options, is all done while taking account of rapidly-changing market conditions.

Responsibilities

As a planning and development surveyor, you'll need to:

  • assess land and property use requirements, including traffic and infrastructure
  • manage or take a lead role in projects, from the earliest planning stages through to completion
  • identify new opportunities by conducting research and networking
  • interpret data from various sources
  • draw up, present and negotiate competitive proposals
  • advise clients on the availability of finance and the feasibility of planning permission
  • prepare and present applications for planning permission
  • provide valuations, advise financial institutions and negotiate with regard to the provision of finance for commercial and residential developments
  • ensure compliance with planning legislation and policy
  • use strong management and entrepreneurial skills to ensure that projects are managed successfully, efficiently and profitably for employers and clients
  • consider the physical, environmental and social impact of proposed developments
  • advocate the conservation and protection of historic or environmentally sensitive sites and areas
  • promote the use of effective land management and administration as one of the key drivers behind economic development
  • communicate and negotiate effectively with colleagues, clients and financial stakeholders
  • respond quickly to changes in market conditions, client requirements and government policies
  • specialise - depending on the requirements of your job - in particular areas such as planning and development policy, development and regeneration appraisal, planning and implementation processes, compulsory purchase and related compensation.

Salary

  • Graduate starting salaries for a planning and development surveyor begin at £20,000 to £25,000.
  • Experienced chartered surveyors can earn from £30,000 to £42,000 depending on level of experience, company and location.
  • Surveyors in more senior positions earn in the region of £40,000 to £70,000. Some companies offer performance-related bonuses and other employment benefits.

The RICS and Macdonald & Company UK Rewards & Attitudes Survey 2016 provides lots of useful information about salaries, working benefits and career culture.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours and conditions can be variable and can typically require regular extra hours and some weekend and evening work.

Part-time work and career breaks are possible, more commonly in the public sector. The private sector is becoming increasingly flexible, with technological advances enabling remote and home-based working.

What to expect

  • The work is varied and involves office-based work, site work and meetings - working both alone and as a member of a team.
  • Self-employment or freelance work is possible. Before setting up as a freelancer, substantial experience is needed to establish contacts and reputation.
  • Larger public and private sector employers are likely to be city-based but jobs are available in most areas.
  • Travel within a working day is frequent and can involve travelling throughout the country.
  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a global institution and a RICS-accredited degree is an internationally-recognised qualification, which means that it is possible to work anywhere in the world.

Qualifications

Entry into the profession requires a degree or professional qualification accredited by the RICS. You can search for accredited courses at RICS Courses.

There are a number of undergraduate degree courses in property-related areas that are accredited by RICS, for example:

  • building surveying
  • estate management
  • planning and development
  • property development
  • real estate.

However, a property-related undergraduate degree is not essential. For applicants whose first degree is not property related (or 'non-cognate'), a postgraduate conversion qualification (approved by RICS) is required.

A number of organisations, particularly the large commercial firms of surveyors, welcome applications from those with non-property degrees and will support or sponsor conversion training while you are employed, either by day release or by distance learning.

Entry without a degree is also possible. Associate membership of RICS is available with a relevant HND or HNC, NVQ or SVQ and relevant work experience. This can be achieved through an Associate Assessment or an Assessment of Technical Competence (ATC).

Graduate schemes such as those offered by The Valuation Office provide the necessary training and development needed for a successful career in this field. It may also be possible to find a planning support role, in which you can do day-release courses and work towards a relevant qualification.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • excellent analytical and numerical skills
  • strong communication and interpersonal skills including negotiating, networking and presentation
  • effective written communication and report-writing ability
  • an interest in legal matters, policies and procedures
  • a creative and innovative approach with an aptitude for problem solving
  • the ability to carry out development appraisals thoroughly and convincingly, especially financial viability
  • good commercial awareness and understanding of the property sector
  • a sense of ethical responsibility.

Work experience

Pre-entry work experience is useful and is increasingly looked for by employers. Relevant work experience can count towards the practical training requirements of the RICS. Many RICS-accredited degree courses offer sandwich placement opportunities enabling students to gain substantial experience as part of their course.

It is advisable to gain some commercial awareness of the industry by following property stories in the national business press and by reading specialist journals such as:

Combining this with relevant work experience should help you demonstrate your interest in the profession and will display an understanding of the wider context of the role.

A succinct introduction to the role and its requirements is provided by the RICS publication Why Become a Chartered Planning and Development Surveyor?

Employers

The majority of employment is found within the private sector in:

  • planning consultancies
  • firms of chartered surveyors with specialised departments
  • commercial development companies
  • property companies
  • public utilities
  • landowners
  • private developers
  • house builders and housing associations
  • large commercial retail, banking and entertainment organisations with in-house estates departments.

In the public sector, you can find opportunities in:

For an up-to-date insight into the profession and current market conditions follow property-related news in the national and industry press or visit RICS News and Insight.

Planning and development surveyors play a big role in the creation of sustainable developments and in the public sector they may frequently work on affordable housing and urban and rural generation projects.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies sometimes handle vacancies; Macdonald and Company is RICS approved.

Speculative applications may be successful, particularly to smaller, private sector firms. Larger employers may visit campuses and target certain degree courses to recruit final year undergraduates. Many of the larger graduate schemes have deadlines in November or December, and it is advisable to apply as early as possible.

Professional development

After you have completed an accredited degree or postgraduate conversion course, you will move on to two years of structured training with the RICS, known as the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), to become fully qualified and a member of the RICS (MRICS). A year's placement as part of a relevant sandwich degree can count towards the APC requirements.

Planning and development is one of 22 different pathways through the APC. To successfully complete the APC you will be required to pass a combination of mandatory and optional competencies, including:

  • development appraisals
  • planning
  • legal/regulatory compliance
  • valuation
  • mapping
  • measurement of land and property
  • access and rights over land
  • compulsory purchase and compensation
  • management of the built environment
  • sustainability.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is an important part of the role and a requirement of RICS membership. In addition to core surveying skills, you will be encouraged to gain a good understanding of business and management processes. All those qualifying as members of the RICS (MRICS) are required to complete a postgraduate-management qualification within a set time frame.

Senior planning and development surveyors and many consultants in the private sector frequently hold the additional qualification of membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Career prospects

There are considerable opportunities for advancement within the profession as well as varied career paths, dependent on the organisation you are working for.

Generally, graduates start in trainee surveyor positions, progressing to experienced and senior surveyor roles, followed by the potential to take up management positions (including associate, partner and directorial roles in some organisations) or pursue further specialisms.

Surveyors who can demonstrate significant achievements in their careers can achieve Fellowship of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Self-employment, consultancy and freelance work are also options.