The Things I Know - James Cook, Planning director, GL Hearn

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

James Cook
James Cook

I gained a degree in town and country planning from the University of Manchester in 1988. I found that the areas we focused on were largely historical. We haven't built many garden suburbs recently, but perhaps that will change.

- What attracted you to planning?

I grew up in the North East, which saw very little development at the time. I thought that what was happening in the London Docklands in the 1980s and 1990s was hugely exciting and that influenced my degree choice.

- What did you learn in your first job?

I was a planner at the London Borough of Barnet for two years more than a decade ago and learnt that planning at all levels is highly political.

- What skills have you had to learn over your career?

It is important to have the ability to interact with and understand the views of a wide range of people and interests.

- What or who have been the biggest influences on your career?

Clients. I try to put myself in their shoes and that has fundamentally influenced the way I think about work.

- What is your career highlight?

I have been lucky enough to work on a number of high-profile schemes. I am currently working on a major mixed-use scheme in East Croydon that promises to be outstanding.

- What have you learned outside work that has influenced you?

The more you put in, the more you get out. I do a bit of a running - the more you train, the better you get.

- What further skills do you aim to obtain or develop?

I am interested in the wider development process. Planning is only a small part of a much bigger process that delivers the development we need as a society. It is complex, dynamic and fascinating.

- How important is it to keep abreast of developments in allied professions?

This is fundamental. Planning doesn't operate in a vacuum and we must understand wider influences.

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