RESOURCE | Town Planners – What is it that they do?

Barton WillmoreLet’s face it, town planning will never be hip in a way that architecture and urban design is, but as a career that has to balance the needs and aspirations of communities, businesses and the environment, there’s a lot more to it that some people might think, writes Steven Grimster.

So, what is it like to be a planner? I’ll give you a small insight.

Why did I join Barton Willmore?

I joined Barton Willmore three and a half years ago, shortly after our Manchester office was established. Having long been aware of Barton Willmore’s work up and down the country, the chance to join the firm at such an exciting time of growth in the North West offered a great opportunity to further my career. Since then, the team and its client base has grown significantly, and I have enjoyed every minute.

What’s been an interesting project to work on?

The stand-out project for me since joining Barton Willmore is the expansion of Chester Zoo. As one of the UK’s leading visitor attractions, the ‘Islands’ project is one of the most high-profile developments in the north of England, and of its kind in the country. Having worked as part of an international team of consultants to overcome challenges and secure planning permission, it is exciting to see the new development taking shape ahead of its opening later this year. It’s also expanded my knowledge of animal types and breeds considerably!

Describe a typical working day?

There really is no such thing as a ‘typical’ working day. The only thing I’m certain of as I walk through the door each morning is the inevitable tea-making round, which I do my best to avoid. My work can vary from a day in the office working closely with the team to prepare planning applications, to being out and about attending meetings with clients or assessing new potential sites. It is a real mixed bag which really keeps me on my toes and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What are my ambitions for the next 12 months?

Whilst driving growth and diversification within the company’s client base and services is clearly the focus of the business over the next twelve months, 2015 is set to be an interesting year as the General Election creeps closer, bringing with it some level of uncertainty on the future direction of planning policy. On a more personal level, my ambition for the next 12 months is to continue to guide and advise my new and existing clients through the year, whilst helping them to achieve the best possible result for their developments.

What’s the best thing about being a planner?

It’s difficult to pick out one thing. I like the wide variety of work associated with my role as a town planner, and the day-to-day challenges and opportunities it can throw up along the way.

I also really enjoy getting to meet and work with different people across a range of projects. Whether working with new or existing clients, or even local residents, it’s great to play a part in shaping and influencing proposals that ultimately bring about positive change to communities.

What will be the biggest change/challenge in planning over the next 5/10 years?

The last few years have seen a real focus on boosting housing delivery across the country. Whilst this has largely had a positive effect, there remains a clear need to continue to accelerate housing growth. Planning policy must continue to support this. A key challenge will be how ‘localism’ dovetails with these growth ambitions over the coming years. There is an ever-increasing emphasis on neighbourhood planning in Central Government as demonstrated in recent decisions by the Secretary of State. It will be important to strike the right balance to ensure that this does not create uncertainty and delay delivery, whilst still allowing local people a say on the future of their communities.

I hope that gives you an idea of what the job entails. Hopefully not as dull as you imagined and if you see me at a networking event soon, please don’t avoid me, come and say hello!

This article was originally published through Place Resources

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