Planning enforcement: much more than a Cinderella service
Negotiating, Protecting, Advising and Enforcing, abbreviated to NAPE, is the acronym that reflects the role that enforcement officers carry out daily and the name of one of the RTPI’s most active networks, the National Association of Planning Enforcement.
Not only do officers need planning expertise and knowledge, the job requires a unique skill set to ensure the effective and successful resolution of many issues encompassed by planning enforcement. Officers need to be able to take a case through the courts and deal with a variety of people, often in challenging and hostile situations. High-profile cases like Mr Fidler, Dale Farm, and the recent demolition of a pub in Westminster may make headlines, but we need to recognise the importance of the day-to-day cases that positively affect the lives of local residents.
Just over 10 years ago a group of enforcement officers met at the RTPI to discuss a successor to the Planning Officers Executive. “NAPE was formed with the remit of ensuring that the voice of enforcement officers was heard and that the enforcement of planning controls was recognised as a statutory part of the planning function.”
The role of NAPE in local planning
Katie Baldwin, NAPE South East England representative’s journey:
"Since leaving school in 1979, I’ve worked at a local planning authority. Thanks to sponsorship, I obtained a Higher National Certificate in Town and Country Planning. Being a planning technician was varied and enjoyable.
I joined the Society of Town Planning Technicians, which was then subsumed by the RTPI. I received TechRTPI status and became a compliance officer. At that point, I discovered NAPE, then an RTPI Association, and quickly saw its benefits – at very least it put me in touch with people doing similar jobs.
To me, the work of enforcement/compliance/investigation officers is vital to the credibility of the planning system, therefore, it was a natural step to both join NAPE and stand for election to the management committee. This way, I promote and represent the enforcement function within the RTPI, nationally and locally.
It is rewarding to think that, through NAPE, I play a part in raising the profile of planning enforcement from aged officers sitting at desks covered in dust-laden files to that of a growing group of dynamic officers, many of a young age, who are at the heart of the planning function of local authorities."
Today, with more than 800 members, NAPE responds to consultations from DCLG and other bodies and contributes to enforcement guides. Looking back to 2006, gone are documents like PPG18 and 10/97. Along came the National Planning Policy Framework and guidance, on which NAPE was consulted.
In England, Planning Enforcement Orders were introduced and across the nations enforcement has been at the forefront of change: from the review in Wales, to new powers in Scotland and the devolution of enforcement from the Department of Environment to councils in Northern Ireland. All against a backdrop of reduced spending in local government. RTPI North West research found that since 2006 there has been a 46 per cent decline in the number of enforcement staff in local authorities. Despite the challenges, enforcement officers have taken the changes in their stride whilst still providing an effective service.
Despite an uncertain future following the EU referendum result and no sign of increasing local government finances, the role of enforcement within the planning system is secure and perhaps better recognised and appreciated than it was in 2006. The maxim of Negotiating, Advising, Protecting and Enforcing will have as much resonance as it did 10 years ago.
- More information about joining the NAPE network and 2017's NAPE Annual Conference, to be held in November in Edinburgh, can be found here: www.rtpi.org.uk/nape