Where do you work?
I'm a Principal Planning Officer on the Development Management team (Strategic Applications) at London Borough of Enfield. The borough has diverse landscapes ranging from low-rise suburban houses, mixed-use tall buildings in town centres, strategic industrial estates to farmland and open space within the Green Belt. The council has progressive ambitions to deliver 25,000 new homes, including genuinely affordable homes and new job opportunities, reduce spatial disparities, and become a green lung of London.
My role is to progress key regeneration projects through the statutory development management process and deliver high-quality development in line with the Council's ambitions in collaboration with stakeholders such as developers, internal departments, external partners, local communities, and politicians.
Route into planning
Tell us about your route into planning
Intrigued by the 'conservation vs development' debate during high school, I wanted to learn more about protecting the environment so studied Geography.
After graduating from the university, I worked as a community organiser in a grassroots green group in Hong Kong. I delivered community-led place-making projects in peri-urban villages. I also campaigned to protect agriculture in large scale New Town development projects and democratise the planning system. These experiences deepened my understanding of the complex dynamic among different stakeholders in the planning process and the drivers of urban development in peri-urban areas.
After three years, I reached a bottleneck in my career and wanted to find a different role in effecting positive changes in urban development. Therefore, in 2016, I decided to pursue a postgraduate degree in Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield.
Helping the public
How does your role involve helping the public?
As part of the development management team, I scrutinise large scale development proposals in the Borough and negotiate with developers to ensure the national, regional and local planning policies are met. Hence, the negative impacts on communities and the environment can avoided, minimised and mitigated. At the same time, improvements to the neighbourhoods and people's livelihoods are delivered, such as affordable housing and other infrastructures.
There are usually competing demands given the constraints, and a planning balance needs to be struck. I provide professional advice to the planning committee comprising elected councillors. This helps inform difficult decision-making by clearly laying all the material planning considerations.
I always remind myself of my duty to facilitate the timely delivery of high-quality developments that align with the public's expectations and the long-lasting implications of my decisions on the people's livelihoods and the environment.
Tell us about any work you've done to help your local community
I have been volunteering for Planning Aid in London and other community groups, including a neighbourhood forum representing where I lived. The planning system can seem complicated. I provide free planning advice to communities in London who cannot afford professional support.
I'm also a steering group member and communication lead of the BAME Planners Network, promoting diversity and inclusion in planning. It’s important that the planning profession represents the communities we serve.
As an alumnus and member of the Liaison Board of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield, I provide feedback on the department's planning courses to help better equip the next generation of planners with the relevant knowledge.
Your spare time
What do you do when you are not planning?
I'm a casual cycling enthusiast. You may find me wandering around the cities and towns on my foot or two wheels. I enjoy going to the cinema and galleries every now and then. I always spend time learning new computer skills. I recently learned Python even though I had known nothing about coding before (perhaps it's still partly planning related as I can apply the data analysis and visualisation skills).