Graduate Planner

Rafaela E. Christodoulou


years working

in planning





Masters in

Urban Design and City Planning

The dual nature of my degree couldn’t have been a greater initiation to the UK’s planning system.

My role

Where do you work?

I currently work as a Graduate Planner for Arrow Planning Ltd, a Planning Consultancy based in Buckinghamshire. I work on residential, mixed-use, commercial, and renewable energy projects and various planning applications, appeals and site appraisals. I participate from the very early stages of a project to public consultation, submission, and condition discharge.

Sustainable Futures by Design, UDCP 2019

Route into planning

Tell us about your route into planning

I studied Architecture Engineering at the University of Thessaly in Volos, Greece. During my studies, I had the opportunity to study architecture, urban planning, history of architecture and urbanism, and sociology, and implement that knowledge into a number of projects. I got to work on individual and group projects - from small-scale to master planning.

After graduating, I worked as a Junior Architect Engineer for a year and a half for one of the largest Project Management companies in Greece. During that time, I worked alongside a very diverse team on a variety of office and hospitality projects. However, soon enough I decided I was drawn more towards the world of masterplanning and town planning.

Having an innate interest in large-scale projects, I pursued a Master’s degree in Urban Design and City Planning (UDCP) at UCL. During my time there, I explored how people experience the urban realm and how that experience can be improved, become more inclusive and provide healthier living conditions. At the same time, I studied local and national planning policies and approached them with a critical outlook, proposing areas of improvement. The dual nature of my degree couldn’t have been a greater initiation to the UK’s planning system and what awaited me next in my career as a Planner.

Helping the public

How does your role help the public?

I believe that the very nature of what we do as Planners entails providing high-quality spaces and infrastructure that will benefit people and cities in the long run. Delivering schemes with net zero carbon targets, high building performance efficiency and incorporating renewable energy have been key drivers for me.

Most of the projects I have worked on are committed to the delivery of developments that are high-quality, affordable, and sustainable. I have been involved in applications for new care homes, affordable housing schemes, office spaces, and renewable energy parks. Most recently, we gained planning approval for a 67-bed care home. The development will provide a valuable contribution to the local housing supply, both in terms of specialist supply for the ageing population and by freeing up market housing, to meet the identified housing needs. I have also been involved in several proposals regarding new carbon-neutral communities alongside green spaces and renewable energy facilities, providing sustainable transit ways, through EV charging points, E-buses, and good connectivity to the wider location.

What does that involve?

  • My role regularly involves engaging with local communities, as I need to be at the forefront of public engagement with clients, other disciplines, and residents through public consultations. Conducting a series of door-knocking surveys and engaging with hundreds of people asking for their views and feedback on projects, has been a proactive way of approaching the community. Discussing proposals with the locals is always a two-way process, which can only benefit both sides.
  • For Planners, it adds an extra layer, that of local knowledge, to an area, which cannot be obtained through policies or desktop research, and can positively inform a proposal. Also, Planners get to communicate their work to the public and explain more intricate matters (highways, drainage, policies, housing supply, etc). On the other side, the locals have the opportunity to express their views on what is proposed and influence shaping the urban environment to respond to their needs.
'How to become a Planner' roadmap handed out at Bucks Skills Show

My community

Earlier this year, I participated in the Bucks Skills Show and The Grange School Careers Fair, two great opportunities for secondary school students and career changers to gain insight into a variety of sectors and professional options. Not only did I get to discuss with young students and explain to them what we do as Planners, but I also created a roadmap to highlight the possible routes to becoming a Planner. It has an interesting challenge in describing to students of various ages a typical day as a Planner. I was able to share my background and route to planning, with the hope to inspire our next generation of Planners.  

Also, regularly helping with ‘The Chiltern Rangers’ – a charity organisation that provides habitat management in Bucks and the wider Chilterns – has been an incredibly wholesome experience. Cutting branches to create paths or weaving twigs to create opportunities for new habitats to thrive within the river while engaging with members of the local community are just a few memories.

Volunteering with Chiltern Rangers
Volunteering with Chiltern Rangers
Photo from Lake Eola Park, Orlando, FL.
Photo from Naxos, Greece

What do you do when you are not planning?

When not working, I enjoy reading, cooking, and taking long walks in the countryside. I love travelling and discovering new places through my camera lens. I find urban exploration quite inspiring and insightful as it brings me a step closer to understanding both the unique and common forces that have shaped different cities.