Planning, also known as town planning, spatial planning or urban planning, is concerned with land use - how the environment in which we live is managed both physically and aesthetically. The planning process essentially has two functions: to manage physical development and to plan ahead for future growth and development. These functions seek to balance physical development against other social, economic and environmental needs. As professionals, planners draw on many disciplines and have to take into account many different issues including:
- environmental and aesthetic – how will a new development impact on the local environment or community and how will it look;
- economic – how will development effect the local economy and local businesses;
- legal and political - the laws and national policies that govern planning and land use issues;
- human and social - how will local people and communities be affected?
Planning operates on a number of levels: from European to national to regional to local. Planning policy in Ireland is set at national level through legislation such as the Planning & Development Acts and various national policies and guidelines, and implemented locally by city, county and town councils. Increasingly spatial planning has taken on a regional dimension, particularly in regard to the delivery of infrastructure and other strategic developments, where local authorities are required to work together. Also, the influence of European and international concerns such as environmental protection and resource conservation are now also an important aspect of working in planning.
Planning affects everyone and the planning process in Ireland is highly participatory with individuals and communities encouraged to become involved at all levels; both in developing local and regional planning policies such as City or County Development Plans, to making their views known on individual applications that may affect them as part of the planning process.
As a career, planning offers the chance to directly shape and influence the environment in which we all live. Planners can advance to specialise in areas as diverse as urban design, transport planning and environmental management. Qualified planners in Ireland work in a range of sectors. The majority work in the public sector for Local Authorities or in the private sector representing and working with construction, community, public and other bodies through the planning process.