Go on, shape the world around you

London representative on the Young Planners' Network steering group Laura Smith talks to Joanna Hooper about her job and experiences.

- What qualifications do you have?

A BSc (Hons) in environmental science from Greenwich University and an MA (Hons) in town and country planning from the University of the West of England.

- What is your current job?

Senior planner at the Landscape Partnership.

- Why did you choose planning?

I always enjoyed geography and had an interest in towns, growing up in a historic South East location that was subject to development pressures. My interest in environmental issues stems from travelling to the West Indies as a child and visiting the rainforest. When I returned as a teenager, huge areas had been deforested to make way for market gardening, drawing my attention to the need for sustainable development.

- What does your job involve?

My work encompasses all elements of the application process, from preparation and supporting documents to consultation and negotiations with case officers on complex planning problems. I am also preparing my assessment of professional competence submission.

- What do you do in a typical day?

My days are varied. I may visit a site to understand the project context or attend a meeting with statutory consultees or with the project team. I commute from Southampton to Waterloo station, which gives me time to consider emerging planning issues that might interest the London group and organise events.

- What skills and knowledge do you need to be successful in your job?

Leading a multidisciplinary project team can require creativity in understanding site solutions. A capacity to build relationships is important when negotiating with case officers and during consultation. Problem-solving is crucial as many projects involve research and evaluation as well as ensuring that they are delivered on time and in budget.

- What are the best points about your job?

When a case officer supports one of our planning applications or when an objection we have prepared prevents an inappropriate application. It is rewarding when the outcome of a sustainability appraisal is incorporated into policy or when the local community understands a project better following consultation.

- What advice do you have for students and graduates interested in planning as a career?

Planning provides the opportunity to be involved in shaping the world around you, balancing economic, social and environmental opportunities and constraints. Embarking on a career in the public sector provides invaluable experience in how decisions are made. Being a private-sector planner can enable you to work in both urban and rural contexts on a diverse range of projects.

- What are the benefits of being a young planners representative?

The network and the national steering group offer members the opportunity to socialise with other young planners working in London. We are also improving links with other regions, which opens greater potential for networking. It is vital that both policy-makers and the RTPI consider young planners' views as the system evolves to meet the issues of economic stability, population growth and climate change.


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