Where do you work?
I’m lucky enough to work for the National Trust! Not many people realise that as an organisation we have a team of planners covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland so we work across 3 planning regimes. We respond to third party applications, engage in local plan consultations and are a developer ourselves so the work is really varied.
My role as head of profession means that I work nationally, and so while I am based at home, I get to travel and get to see planning ‘on the ground’ at a really broad variety of places. I am the professional lead for all the Planning Advisers. I also set the strategic direction of travel for the organisation around engaging with the planning system and positioning around key topics, such as Biodiversity Net Gain. A large part of my role is to influence and advocate externally through responding to government consultations and working with key stakeholders across the heritage, nature, and environmental sectors.
Route into planning
Tell us about your route into planning
I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career and so after ’A’ levels I took a break from study and tried out various jobs – from an au pair through to a bank clerk. I knew I wanted to do something else, so I decided to do a degree in my favourite subject, geography – without a real sense of what I would do at the end.
Luckily my geography degree course included a module on planning in my first year, so it was then that I realised it was possible to work spatially as a planner. I went on to study part time for a Planning Masters with an Urban Design Specialism at University College London, while working as an Assistant Planner for a Local Authority.
I went on to gain experience in policy, development management and enforcement in Local Authorities and with a National Park Authority – so I got to experience the breadth and depth that working in planning can offer.
How does your role involve helping the public?
I have the opportunity to shape and influence emerging planning policy and legislation and this is a real privilege. It will mean that we have a planning system that is fit to meet the 21st century challenges of climate and nature emergencies and the journey to net zero. I genuinely believe that this work will positively impact everyone and will make sure that access to nature and open spaces, good living standards and well-designed developments are brought forward.
I also believe that the value of our heritage and its protection through the planning system is also key – so I’m delighted that the proposed Levelling up and Regeneration Bill strengthens these. Heritage is not just about mansions and castles, it’s about shops and houses and high streets with local distinctiveness, diversity and character and these are around us on a day-to-day basis and enrich our lives. It’s also about allowing these amazing assets to evolve and change through time, in a sensitive way that maintains their character. We need to build climate resilience in our heritage assets and I am proud that the National Trust is leading in this area.
Tell us about any work you’ve done to help your local community
I volunteer at our local college as one of panel of interviewers to support college students applying for jobs and work placements/experience in the built environment profession. I am part of the Women in Planning mentoring network volunteering as a mentor to support women to have the confidence to take their next steps in their planning careers.
What do you do when you are not planning?
As a geographer travel is my first love and visiting new places or re-visiting old ones with my children is my idea of bliss. I am a keen baker and love trying out new bakes on my children who make very willing and honest taste testers! I even won first place in a ‘best plain scone’ competition at a local fayre. I love the outdoors and nature and so long walks with our family dog ‘Woody’ is a great way to recharge and reconnect with nature - anywhere with water to swim in, or even just a puddle to for him to lie in (preferably a muddy one) is perfect.