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Skills shortage threatens sustainable development, says report

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England is facing a crippling shortage of urban designers, architects and planners within sustainable development, says the Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC).

According to a report by the ASC, 'Mind the Gap', labour shortages within architecture, urban design and landscape architecture are set to increase significantly to 91 per cent by 2012, reflecting growing demand for design skills and a lack of fresh talent entering the professions.

Local government planning departments are expected to need at least 46 per cent more staff by 2012. This shortfall, says the ASC, is likely to be fuelled by increasing demand for sustainable housing in the war on climate change.

According to 'Mind the Gap', which has been compiled in tandem with Arup, the public sector will be hardest hit by labour shortages and will come to rely even more heavily on expensive consultants.

The private sector, by contrast, is staffed with a younger workforce and faces fewer barriers to recruitment, argues the ASC.

Predictably, the south east faces the biggest shortage. But it is expected a 'substantial proportion' of professionals from northern and midland regions will be sucked into the south east to fill the skills gap.

Commenting on the results, the ASC said in a statement: 'The increasing recognition of the role of an attractive public realm in delivering social, economic and environmental benefits has led to an upswing in demand not matched by supply.'

The ASC is now pushing for a nationally co-ordinated approach to skills development as a solution to the growing crisis.

'There also needs to be a common and shared understanding across the professions of what delivering sustainable communities actually means in practice,' added the ASC.

by Clive Walker

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