Relishing South West challenges

Young planner Catherine Caudwell tells Jamie Birtles that the variety in her day-to-day workload affirms that she made the right career choice.

- What qualifications do you have?

A BSc (Hons) in human geography and town planning from Cardiff University and a masters in town and country planning from the University of the West of England.

- What is your current job title?

Assistant planner at King Sturge in Bristol.

- How and why did you enter your current career?

My human geography course included a substantial amount of planning content. I quickly realised the merits of doing a vocational degree, and while some of my other friends were unsure about what to do when they graduated, I went straight into the private sector as a town planner. After two years in practice I decided to get my RTPI accreditation by doing a masters part time while working. I am now six months off being able to apply for full membership.

- What does your job involve?

King Sturge is a large multidisciplinary company and as a result my job is really varied from day to day. I work with a wide range of colleagues internally as well as clients from developers and landowners to investors and occupiers in both the private and public sectors. My team also frequently works with and co-ordinates external consultants, which can be really informative. My day-to-day work involves preparation and submission of written representations to local authorities on local development framework consultations as well as working on planning applications and negotiations. We are also instructed on work which doesn't fit into the normal brackets. For example I recently wrote a brief on the emergence of solar farms and the potential benefits for some of our clients.

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

It is crucial to remain aware of emerging policy and understand the implications nationally, regionally and locally. This has been particularly relevant as a result of the coalition government coming into power. It is also important to be efficient and thorough, and some skilful lateral thinking is often required to obtain the necessary outcome. An encyclopaedic knowledge of use classes and permitted development is also useful.

- What are the best and worst points about your job?

I love working in the South West, and the variety of work I am involved in is great for learning about all the different aspects of the planning process. It is a bit daunting when you are faced with a project or situation that you haven't worked with before, but it is definitely beneficial to be challenged in the long run.

- How do you feel your career might progress in future?

I hope to gain full RTPI membership next summer and progress within my company.

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

Have a good look around as there are many different routes to gaining RTPI accreditation. I would recommend working in the profession for a time before enrolling on a course to ensure that you go down the right route to achieve your future goals.

- If you would like to contribute articles, profiles, event reports or photos to the Young Planners page, please email

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