Judith Onuh



working in planning





cofounder of the

BAME planners network

As planners, we are at the forefront of making an impact and we play an active role in shaping communities.

My role

Where do you work?

I work at WSP which is a large multi-disciplinary company as a Chartered Town Planner specialising in Infrastructure. WSP has one of the largest teams of infrastructure planners and environmental professionals in the UK. This enables us to deliver a range of consents including Development Consent Orders (DCO) for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) in England and Developments of National Significance (DNS) in Wales; through to Section 36 Consents in Scotland, Transport and Works Act and planning applications for critical local infrastructure. 

My graduation

Route into planning

Tell us about your route into planning

Growing up in Liverpool, I was really lucky to be surrounded by so many fabulous buildings. I remember looking at them on my way to school and thinking these are impressive, so I have always been fascinated by space and buildings

I didn't know what I wanted to study at university, so I spoke to a great careers advisor at my college who helped me figure out what I enjoyed studying. I enjoyed studying English, geography, and sociology and between the two of us we identified that what I really enjoyed about those subjects were the people elements and how I could help people live a better life, that was my main driver.

After doing some research and visiting university open days I came back and spoke to my careers adviser and said “Bingo!" Planning is the course for me, and the rest is history.

Helping the public

How does your role involve helping the public?

As a Town Planner my role is to make life easy for everyone to ensure that the infrastructure the public needs to live their day to day lives is available. To make sure when you wake up and turn on the switch you have power; that when you leave your house there's the infrastructure there for you to get to wherever you are going. 

There is also a big crossover between planning and social issues. We currently have a housing crisis and a cost-of-living crisis. As planners, we are at the forefront of making an impact and we play an active role in shaping these communities. Providing open spaces in the community can really make a difference. During the lockdown, we found out how much people appreciate outdoor space. It might have been something people just walked past casually before. 

With large scale infrastructure such as NSIPs, one of the impacts on communities across the country is making sure that have a steady electricity supply. In the UK, the cost of energy as recently highlighted in the media is going up. As infrastructure planners, we work alongside developers and other stakeholders to provide the necessary infrastructure within the UK to generate and transmit reliable, clean and renewable energy. This has a direct impact on the quality of life for many people up and down the country.

Helping my community

Tell us about any work you’ve done to help your local community

In previous roles, my focus was on making sure that we could provide affordable housing for people. Depending on where you live, affordable housing can help young families, people who are looking to downsize, first-time buyers, and key workers. There's such a massive need for this housing and there isn't enough being provided across the country. We must get them built, but we also need to get them built in the right place. They need to be fit for purpose for the challenges we face now and, in the future, including climate change.  Ultimately the aim, with any form of development is to leave a place better than you have found it.

Do you do any work related activities in your spare time?

  • I have been an elected member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), General Assembly, since 2021. The General Assembly (GA) provides a forum for debate about the development of planning policy and practice, the corporate policy of the Chartered Institute and other issues relevant to the objects of the Chartered Institute. I would encourage all RTPI members to think about putting themselves forward to become a member of the GA.
  • In 2020, led by Helen Fadipe MRTPI, I was part of a group of professional planners who co-founded the BAME Planners Network. The network aims to provide support, exposure and career advice to network members. In January 2021, I and other co-founders were presented with the RTPI Presential Award in recognition of the leading role the network has played in support of equality, diversity and inclusivity within the profession.
Zambia site visit with the community team

What do you do when you are not planning?

I am a big foodie, so I love to try different types of food at restaurants and then try and recreate these recipes at home. 

I also love travelling, so I'm hoping to be able to get back out there and see some new places soon, now that all the Covid restrictions have eased. A travel experience that shaped the person I am today was when I went to Zambia for three months whilst at university. As a team, we were allocated to a rural village and tasked with building a Youth Resource Centre. This was extremely challenging as we didn't speak the local language, Bemba and the residents didn't speak English. The experience taught me to look at things in a multifaceted way to find other ways of communicating with different groups to achieve a goal.