Ten Tips on how to formulate your Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) without hiring a Planning Consultant

How will you plan in a less than ideal situation? How will you manage without outside help of experts? How will you proceed if you do not have enough data, information, manpower, or resources? This is our story.

Four years ago (2017), our office, the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator (CPDO), decided to start the formulation of our City’s Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for three reasons. First is it is a mandated plan of the local government unit (LGU), second is we are excited to do it ourselves because we did not allocate resources to hire a consultant to assist us in the formulation of the CDP, and third is we badly want to update our CDP to qualify our city to the Seal of Good and Local Governance (SGLG) award.

Our city’s past CDP is part of a combined plan composed of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and CDP. That plan is called the Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan (CLUDP) which covered the years 2000 to 2015. The city hired a consultant in 1999 to help formulate the CLUDP. Hence, if you will look at it, this is the first time our city will formulate its separate CDP. That time, we are both anxious and excited to face this challenge.

Our team is composed of officers from the CPDO. We asked the Mayor if we can go outside our city for four days to focus, study, brainstorm, and formulate a Draft CDP and Local Development Investment Program (LDIP) since we do not have an outside help (consultant) to assist us. We looked for a CDP guide or roadmap. We found a complete guide in the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) website. It is downloadable in PDF form. There is the reference (longer) detailed version and the Illustrative version. I’ll be posting here the Illustrative Guide to CDP Preparation for LGU.

We found the guide very helpful but also very overwhelming. The guide is so complete that it seems that the data and information we had would not suffice to formulate a decent CDP. We had to re-think on how to actually start our planning process. I am sharing with you some of the things or steps we did as a small group to overcome the dreaded situation and formulate a draft CDP as follows:

  1. Draft the Table of Contents

We started first by listing the suggested Table of Contents of the CDP from the DILG guidebook. This served as a checklist to review our available data, assign topics to a member, and a guidepost of our daily accomplishment. The table of contents allowed us to see the big picture and the preferred final output of our activity.

2. Divide the Table of Contents by Chapter, sectors or sub-chapters and by person responsible

We are 6 in our team. We have (2) two urban planners, (1) geographic information system (GIS) expert, (1) expert in local finance, and two (2) jack of all trades, editors, and multi-sectoral planners. We divided the table of contents by chapter, sectors or sub-chapters whichever is applicable based on available data and information.

3. Conduct Population Projection (the most important and available data)

Population data is readily available in the national government’s Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA). Population data is conducted via household census by the PSA every 5 years. The data also provides the growth rate of the LGU. For me, population data is the most important data. By population alone, a planner can project the needed number of houses, schools, hospitals, etc. I personally computed the population projection of the city from 2015 to 2022 that served as the basis for the component sectoral plans of the CDP.

4. Review vertical and horizontal plan alignment as well as other plans related to the LGU

Know the Role of the LGU un relation to other plans. I have a separate blog entry on the vertical and horizontal plan alignment of the LGU. I’ll leave a link to the blog at the end of this entry.

5. Review political platform of elected officials from national down to the LGU level

Planning is more of an art than a science. Planners who think that they are more important than the elected officials should think otherwise. There are great plans that gather dust and moulds somewhere in the planner’s office and there are not so great plans that are supported by elected officials. These not so great plans are given resources and implemented. Planners should learn to work with elected officials. Review their political platform, aspirations, and goals. Most of the time they have great and practical ideas that planners tend to overlook. Remember that as planners we plan for the people and our elected officials being voted into their positions are considered as the voice of the people.

Have a checklist of their plans, programs, and projects. You will eventually see a pattern which sector is their priority.

6. Give time to the person responsible to finish his/her draft report

Each of us went to our independent spot to work on our assigned task. We took note of our available data, tried to research to fill in the gaps in the data, benchmarked CDPs of other LGUs available in the internet, and prepared tables, graphs, and write-ups.

7. Present the individual output to the group

This is the time where we brainstorm. Everybody was encouraged to give his/her inputs to the presentation. We discussed what are the data needed to be included in the report, what are missing, is there a chance we can still get the data, if the data is not available – can the profile still supports the recommendation, will it look good in tables or graphs, and which should come first from the sets of data, among others. We all decide what should be included in the chapters, sectors or sub-chapters. When we are done, we again assign a different topic to cover the other chapters, and so on.

8. Fill-out the required information to the Table of Contents

Remember how someone solves a jigsaw puzzle? This is how we keep progress by fitting-in one piece at a time in our Table of Contents puzzle. It gave us a feeling of accomplishment whenever we fill-out a chapter or a sub-chapter. It further motivates us. For us, this numerous small wins greatly contribute to our objective of formulating our city’s CDP.

9. Decide which part of the Table of Contents should remain and which should be deleted

Some of our puzzle pieces or data and information are not available. However, the data that we have already provided us a more than clear picture of the situation of our city, what needs to be done, how the other plans (national, other LGUs, other local plans and elected officials) align, and how plans should be implemented. We then decide to cut part of the table of contents that we do not have enough data or not in the priority areas. It is not practical to put a sub-sector which does not have any data or impact to the city.

10. Finalize the draft

For me, this is the fun part, putting all the things together. Finalizing the draft is not a one-time step. It is actually reiterative. However, it always felt good to check on what your team accomplished in a short span of time.

We managed to formulate a draft CDP when we went back to our office. We then presented the outputs to the concerned departments for their additional comments, inputs, recommended changes, and validation. It took us around 2 months in conducting series of coordination and editing with the departments to finally finalize the CDP.

The DILG guidebook served as our main reference in the formulation of the CDP. However, I suggest treating it only as a guide and not aiming for its strict adherence. You’ll be frustrated. It is your plan, it is your city’s plan, and your city knows best what should be included in your plan.

As a practicing city government planner, I am planning to make a blog entry in the future introducing modified steps in the CDP guidebook to make it simpler and practical without straying away from the said guidebook.

Yes, you can formulate your CDP with your team without hiring a planning consultant. It is hard, challenging and painstaking but it is not impossible. Yes, we got the CDP approved by our Mayor and City Development Council; and adopted by our city council. It got the support of our elected officials. Finally, yes, our city qualified and got the Seal of Good and Local Governance (SGLG) award.

How about you? What challenges did you overcome as planner?

Vertical and horizontal plan alignment https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2021/05/25/urban-planning-from-national-to-local-governments-alignment-and-relationship-of-plans/

You might also want to check my other Urban Planning Blog entries:

Urban Planning in Local Government Units (LGUs)

How to become an Urban (Environmental) Planner? – Qualifying for the Exam

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

Author: cityplanningcoordinator

A city planning and development coordinator (City Department Head) in a medium-size fast urbanizing city in the Philippines. A certified US Planner, a Philippine licensed Environmental Planner, and a Project Management Professional (PMP).

2 thoughts on “Ten Tips on how to formulate your Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) without hiring a Planning Consultant”

  1. Hi! I see interesting topics in this blog. Anyway, I want to comment on this specific entry because I found it peculiar. It’s good that you finished writing the CDP, however, I think that one of the important considerations in formulating the CDP is that it should be done with your stakeholders. The CDP preparation should be initiated by the Local Development Council (LDC), or at least to be undertaken by the CDC Sectoral Committees which consist of different member agencies and offices of the local government, and members of the LDC distributed in each sectoral committee. I understand the time constraints and the need to skip some of the processes or make deviations from them for you to be able to finish the CDP. But from what I read, the CDP was formulated only by a 6-man team from the CPDO. As a local planner, I always ensure that the planning process required by law is followed. Doing shortcuts may do more harm than good. I hope that your next CDP will be done right. I will be visiting this blog more often to read your reply.

    Like

    1. Very nice observation Jaztin. We used information from various earlier workshops such as outputs from CLUP and other sectoral plans as inputs to the CDP.
      I agree with you that the planning process should be participatory and should not be done in a hurry. Given the time constraints in this situation, we did what we can to deliver.
      In the Philippines, the local government code mandates LGUs to have a CDP and just provided general guidelines. The law just states that you need to comply and submit the CDP. However, there is the very helpful DILG guide. We tried to follow the steps using outputs from other plans as inputs.
      I agree with you (stakeholder’s participation) but it just happened that our situation called for the said action.
      I wrote the article to inspire other LGUs who have limited staff and resources that they too can start and finish their CDP without hiring costly consultants (I’m not against consultants – we hire consultants to help us in formulating very technical plans).
      Thank you for your observation and engagement to the blog entry. Thank you for highlighting the importance of stakeholder’s involvement.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s