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Planning peer challenge

A peer challenge offers you an in-depth look at your service and provides a critical friend's view of your weaknesses and opportunities.

Planning is a vital service within all local authorities. With the local plan delivering the longer term spatial aims for the area, to the planning committee as a very public "shop window" of decision making of the council, and the challenge of delivering homes and businesses now and in the future, making sure your service is functioning at its best is always helpful.

A planning peer challenge offers you an in-depth look at your service and provides a critical friend's view of your weaknesses and opportunities. It can be focused on specific elements of the service or across the whole service, used as a baseline for new Heads of service and for places thinking about the long-term health of their services or facing up to a new challenge. 

Challenge themes

The following five themes are the starting point but we will shape the process to fit your local circumstances.

  • How well is your planning service supporting local priority outcomes?
  • Is there a clear and locally-distinctive planning vision for the area together with a strategy that sets out how the council will address planning needs for sustainable communities, housing and the local economy?
  • How will the council enable citizens and communities to shape their localities in a way that meets their needs and aspirations?
  • Does the council provide a good service to users?
  • How will the council work with other councils, agencies and communities to coordinate where necessary and work productively?

How it works

The challenge is tailored to meet the specific needs you have. The onsite phase of the challenge takes place over three days. The challenge will consist of the following stages:

  • preparation of a position statement and timetable
  • onsite work: principally interviews and discussion groups
  • feedback on key findings and practical suggestions for accelerating improvement
  • action planning session
  • free follow up consultancy support.

The challenge team

We take a flexible approach so that we can bring together the right team for your council. The team will usually include:

  • team leader – senior planning manager (head of service or director)
  • member peer – senior councillor with planning experience
  • officer peer – senior planning officer
  • challenge manager – LGA manager.

Our peer challenge team members will always be experienced in planning services and local government.

A planning peer challenge will cost between £14,000 & 16,000.

What others say

Rob Krzyszowski, Assistant Director, Haringey 2024

"I would highly recommend going through a Planning Service Peer Challenge. It was really useful for Haringey to reflect on our performance, how we compare to other authorities, identify our strengths and weaknesses, and mobilise action across the service and across the wider Council. 
Even if you think you don’t need to go through one, you will still find out very useful perspectives about your planning service, how you fit into the wider corporate organisation, and how you work with key stakeholders
It’s good value for money and you’ll get expertise and insight from an experienced panel of lead planning professionals as well as a political angle
From beginning to end you will actually embark upon around a one year programme of reflection, action planning, dissemination and implementation to improve your service"


Nic Thomas, Director – Planning, Wiltshire Council 2024

“Our Peer Review experience was excellent. I think key to this was having a very good peer team, led by the very experienced and knowledgeable Peer Manager. They were very well prepared and quickly understood the key issues that the service was facing. 

The daily informal feedback allowed me to have internal conversations with other senior managers and politicians during the week and this momentum allowed me to gain traction for corporate ownership of an improvement programme.”

Mark Cassidy, Chief Officer – Planning & Climate Change, Lancaster City Council 2024
“The planning peer challenge was a positive and inclusive experience for our internal and external participants. Credit for that must go to the PAS Team who delivered the peer challenge in a constructive and enabling way. It was pleasing to read the final report that the Service was “performing very well in many areas”.  But the report also provided a list of recommendations which collectively have the potential to improve our service provision still further.
In response to the findings, we have developed an Implementation Plan which establishes a work programme for the following 12 months.  The Implementation Plan is public, and we report progress periodically to the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  Our Members have welcomed this transparent approach and there have been notable improvements in our service areas since the PAS Team’s visit. 
I would strongly recommend the PAS Peer Challenge process to any Director or Chief Officer responsible for their authority’s planning functions.  It acts as a valuable benchmark and an opportunity to test new approaches to service delivery.  There is nothing to fear!  The PAS Team provides the tools and support that you may need to support your wider planning objectives”. 


Further information

For further information about the Planning Peer Challenge, please contact the PAS team or your regional Principal Adviser.