Where do you work?
I currently work for Wyre Forest District Council as Head of Strategic Growth which includes housing and planning. The Council is located in North Worcestershire, close to Birmingham and has three main towns of Kidderminster, Stourport-on-Severn and Bewdley.
In 2017 I took over responsibility for the Planning Policy team at the Council. At that stage the Council was considering preferred options for the Local Plan so I was thrown in at the deep end with public consultations and engagement events around potential sites and the spatial strategy. This meant listening to people’s concerns, providing advice and explanations to the public, stakeholders, and members, and considering what sites to take out of the Greenbelt.
More recently I have taken on responsibility for the Development Management team alongside my existing teams which include planning policy, strategic housing, homelessness, water management and flooding, health and sustainability and private sector housing which will be interesting. I spend my time between individual and corporate projects, management responsibilities and partnership working.
Route into planning
Tell us about your route into planning
I have always had an interest in planning so decided to complete a Chartered Town Planning Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Birmingham. I was really keen to expand my knowledge and learn something new that would benefit my role whilst also continuing to work. I looked for a course that sounded interesting and would be useful for my role and that seemed like a good fit.
The university has a good reputation, and the campus and facilities are great. Going back into the university environment was a real challenge to begin with but the lecturers, administration team and fellow students have all been approachable and supportive. The combination of practical skills and theoretical knowledge that I have experienced so far will be really useful to my planning role.
What are the highlights of your degree apprenticeship?
The lectures are good with some great outside speakers like Sue Manns and Phil Jones Associates (as well as the lecturers) and have covered a range of interesting topics. I have particularly enjoyed the Sustainable Cities module. The facilities like the library are excellent and I love that you can get so much material online now. If you are looking to go down the apprenticeship route I’d recommend getting total support and buy-in from your employer, and have good organisational skills as there is a lot of work to get through.
The Degree Apprenticeship off the job learning has given me the motivation to listen to podcasts, attend training and read materials that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise due to pressure of work and that has really helped my understanding.
Helping the public
How does your role involve helping the public?
I hope to meet housing needs and support economic growth in the District by bringing forward housing and employment sites. Wyre Forest has suffered from de-industrialisation and we have some areas of multiple deprivation alongside the beautiful countryside (including the Wyre Forest).
Tell us about any work you’ve done to help your local community
Through my housing role I have supported numerous affordable housing and supported housing sites to meet the needs of low income families, older people, people with disabilities, young people and the homeless.
Your spare time
What do you do when you are not planning?
Outside of work I enjoy being part of a local choir, listening to live music, yoga and walking the dog.