Place Academy

Workforce Optimisation Winner - The MJ wards


The Council’s Planning Academy (now known as The Place Academy) won the MJ category for Workforce Optimisation.

The Planning Academy was created in 2018 to overcome recruitment difficulties and reliance on temporary staffing. There was a need for an innovative approach to optimise the workforce and grow its own talent.

Since 2018, 29 trainees have been employed via the academy's training programme covering planning, building control, flood risk, natural environment, highways and conservation.

LGC Workforce Awards

Following on from our recent win at the MJ Awards, we delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for Best innovation in smart working in the LGC Workforce Awards. The awards are announced on 8 November 2023.

Andrew Davie, Assistant Director - Development Infrastructure

Andrew Davie

I am responsible for a number of services that play a vital role in shaping the communities and places within our area.

Central Bedfordshire Council is a forward thinking and innovative Council. It is an exciting place to work and offers great opportunities for those looking to start their career. We are within the top 30 largest planning authorities in the country and are ranked 5th for delivery of new homes. We are located in the corridor between Oxford and Cambridge, and home to Center Parcs and other major national companies who are attracted to our excellent transport links.

Potential projects such as an East West rail link will elevate even further the attractiveness of the area and make the importance of protecting the environment while accommodating new sustainable growth even more important. Hopefully this provides some context to the scale of the growth challenges we face and that you would be exposed to early in your professional career, if you were to join us.

The current review of our Local Plan, and our prime location at the heart of the Oxford Cambridge Corridor, means there will be significant further growth in the years ahead.

But we need to ensure that we are planning for more than just homes and jobs.

At Central Bedfordshire Council, Planners and Technical Officers are recognised as being fundamental to good place making. That’s why we are investing in staff, creating opportunities for learning and development through our Place Academy. We need people who are trained with the right skills to help us create new communities which are highly sustainable and ensure that growth respects and maintains our attractive market towns and beautiful villages which are surrounded by stunning countryside.

We are looking for enthusiastic and highly motivated candidates who are interested in shaping the places and communities of the future. If that’s you, then we would love to have a conversation so please take a look at our current opportunities and get in touch with our Place Academy Manager for an informal discussion.

Find out more about planning at Central Bedfordshire Council.

Central Bedfordshire map

About Central Bedfordshire

Central Bedfordshire Council has an ambitious agenda with significant growth planned over the next 20 years delivering 24,000 jobs and up to 20,000 homes.

We have excellent infrastructure links and our aim is to make Central Bedfordshire ‘a great place to live and work’ which is why we believe this is a great place to start your career.

Our Place Academy

To help deliver our growth agenda we have an established Place Academy which  is a fantastic place to develop and gain experience as a planning officer or in  one of the many supporting technical fields.

You will have the opportunity to work in your chosen field and gain experience while learning the skills required to do the job.

You will also have the chance to work in different areas of the council to gain wider understanding of the work involved. A bespoke training programme with mentoring will support you and help you progress.

New for 2023

The Place Academy approach has proved a successful tool for Central Bedfordshire Council and we are currently developing ways in which we can support Local Authorities who would like to establish a similar approach. Take a look at what we can offer and if you would like further information please contact

View our training packages

LGA Innovation Zone

The Place Academy will be sharing information on our model in the Innovation Zone on 5 July 2023 at the Local Government Association Conference 2023.

View or download our presentation from the conference (PowerPoint)

What is the Place Academy?

Woman typing on a laptop

Our award winning academy was established in 2018 and has grown from strength to strength. The academy is now multi-disciplinary and covers not only planning but also supporting technical areas such as highways, conservation and  natural environment,.

The trainee programme has been designed to give you a structured, supported approach to developing your skills, knowledge, and experience within your chosen specialism.

You don’t need to have any work experience or a formal specialist qualification as we will fully support you to achieve this.

You will be supported by a mentor and provided with training to help you develop your skills.

The roles are all permanent positions and will provide you with the skills to reach the next level with opportunities for progression.

Programmes offered within the academy:

There are currently vacancies available within the Planning programme. For more information about the roles available or for an informal chat please contact Lisa Newlands, Academy and Enabling Team Planning Manager email

A warm welcome to the Place Academy, from Lisa Newlands, Academy Manager

Lisa Newlands

Hi, I am Lisa Newlands, the Academy and Enabling Team Planning Manager. I am responsible for the Place Academy.

I have worked in local authority planning for nearly 20 years and enjoy both the opportunities and challenges it brings on a day-to-day basis.

I love working with the team and providing training and support to all officers. No two days are the same.

I am passionate about planning and the role it has to play in everyday lives, from simple householder extensions to more strategic projects. They all have an impact and can benefit both individual families and wider communities.

About my role

My role is to help junior members of the team grow and develop into skilled professionals. I enjoy seeing individuals flourish and progress in their careers whether at Central Bedfordshire Council or elsewhere.

I am supported by two Principal Planning Offers within the team and a number of mentors who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge. As a team we have created a nurturing environment in which to learn and develop the skills needed. We have links with a number of universities, with trainees attending courses at London Southbank University, University College London and University of Wolverhampton.

Our academy has been established since 2018 and has a proven track record of success. We have recruited over 29 trainees within the academy, and it has proved to be an excellent springboard for starting your career. Take a look at some of our case studies to find out more.

You can also find out more about:

  • working in planning
  • applications
  • qualifications
  • hybrid working
  • recruitment process

More about working in planning

Place Academy roles in Planning - Planning Delivery and Local Plans

Within planning, there are two routes available:

  • planning delivery
  • local plans

Planning delivery is about dealing with planning applications, whereas local plans is about helping to develop planning policy to guide development in the local area.

Find out more about these two routes