The most influential women in UK planning

Earlier this week saw the celebration of International Women's Day. This year's theme for the United Nations-supported event was 'Planet 50:50: step-it up for Gender Equality', with activities focused on the pursuit of parity for women.

Clockwise from left: Amber Rudd, Kate Henderson, Joanna Averley, Liz Peace, Martha Grekos
Clockwise from left: Amber Rudd, Kate Henderson, Joanna Averley, Liz Peace, Martha Grekos

The theme will no doubt resonate in the UK planning profession - last year’s Planning Careers and Salary survey showed that men typically earn more than women in both public and private sector planning roles.

Planning decided that the celebration offered an ideal opportunity to recognise the role of women in planning by compiling a list of the most influential women currently working in the sector.  We have made a start by assembling an initial list of names (see below), compiled using a mix of desk research and consultation with those active in the profession.

Those included were chosen because they were judged to:  - significantly shape or influence national planning policy in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland  - significantly influence local, regional or sub-regional planning policy in more than one area  - or have a strong influence on planning decision-making across a wide area of the UK  We have divided the list up into different sectors of the profession, including politicians, lawyers and academics.

We believe our approach has resulted in wide-ranging selection of female practitioners representing a variety of areas of planning activity, but do not claim the list to be completely comprehensive. So we would welcome views and suggestions for any names that meet our criteria we haven’t included in our initial list. 

Please send suggestions and comment to the editor, Richard Garlick, at


Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods
Shadow planning minister

In charge of shaping the planning and housing policy of the main opposition party, including leading Labour’s position on the Housing and Planning Bill.

Lesley Griffiths AM
Cabinet Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Welsh Government

Welsh Cabinet Minister whose brief includes regeneration and affordable housing policy.

Helen Hayes MP
Labour MP and member of committee scrutinising the Housing and Planning Bill 

Planner by profession and key member of the Commons DCLG committee as well as the Housing and Planning Bill committee, having already made some major interjections in opposition to elements of the bill.

Dr Aileen MacLeod MSP
Environment, climate change and land reform minister, Scottish Government

Scottish cabinet member whose brief covers sustainable development, environmental assessment, land reform and climate change.

Baroness O’Cathain
Chair, House of Lords National Policy for the Built Environment Committee

Oversaw the committee’s recent report on government housing and planning policy.

Amber Rudd MP
Energy Secretary, UK Government

In charge of UK government department which shapes policy on energy and climate change, and head of NSIP consent regime.

Elizabeth Truss MP
Environment Secretary, UK Government

In charge of UK government department which shapes policy on environmental impact, air quality, landscape and wildlife.

Baroness Williams
Conservative member of the House of Lords and DCLG minister of state

DCLG minister in charge of policy on travellers, HS2 and local government finance and policy.


Cllr Sue Derbyshire
Leader of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

Member of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (with responsibility for planning).

Cllr Nicky Gavron
Chair, London Assembly planning committee

Chair of assembly’s planning committee. Areas of focus include strategic planning and housing


Melanie Dawes 
Permanent Secretary, DCLG

Head of the DCLG and chief policy adviser to the secretary of state.

Victoria Hills
Chief executive, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation

Former head of transport at the GLA and now overseeing the regeneration of land straddling three London boroughs.

Hilary Jordan
Head of planning, community and policy development at three Dorset authorities

Planning chief of three councils in Dorset: West Dorset DC, North Dorset DC and Weymouth & Portland BC.

Emma Lindsell
Director, Housing Supply, DCLG

Co-head of the section of the DCLG dealing with land, housing supply and Starter Homes policy.

Fiona McCandless
Director of local planning division, DoE, NI Executive

Chief planner for the province, and overseeing last year’s transfer of planning application powers to the 11 new super councils across Northern Ireland.

Deborah McLaughlin
Chief executive, Manchester Place

Head of this city-government partnership organisation, in which the HCA and Manchester City Council come together to boost the quality of housing for the city.

Sadie Morgan
Director, HS2 Design Panel

Tasked with ensuring Britain’s biggest infrastructure project delivers quality design and recognises Britain’s engineering heritage.

Lindsay Nicoll
Chief reporter and director of Scotland’s directorate of planning and environmental appeals

Chief reporter at the organisation which makes decisions and recommendations on a range of planning and environmental matters on behalf of Scottish ministers.

Liz Peace OBE
Chairman, Curzon Urban Regeneration Company

In charge of the regeneration of the area around Birmingham’s proposed HS2 station, and member of the CIL Review Group; ex-BPF chief executive.

Sarah Richards
Chief executive, Planning Inspectorate

Former strategic director of regeneration, housing and resources at Slough Borough Council and former head of the Planning Advisory Service. Now set to take up the nationally-important post of chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate.

Anna Rose
Director, planning and transport, Milton Keynes Council

Planning Officers Society senior vice-president.

Jackie Sadek 
Specialist regeneration advisor to communities secretary Greg Clark

Corinne Swain
OBE Commissioner, Future Urban Living Policy Commission

Former Director and Head of Planning at Arup, and now holds an Arup Fellowship focussing on knowledge sharing and research. Member of the Mayor of London’s Outer London Commission.

Ruth Stanier
Director of Planning, DCLG

Heads the section of the DCLG dealing with development plans and development management.

Isobel Stephen
Director, Housing Supply, DCLG

Co-head of the section of the DCLG dealing with land, housing supply and Starter Homes policy.

Louise Wyman
Head of strategy, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation

Leads the corporation’s strategic planning, design and development work in creating the biggest mixed-use development in the UK and which will provide a template for others to follow.

Government agencies, government bodies, trade bodies, lobbying organisations and think tanks

Petra Biberbach
Chief executive, Planning Aid for Scotland

Heads up the PAS staff team and oversees the organisation’s strategic direction and development.

Clem Cecil
Director, Save Britain’s Heritage

Key campaigner for influential heritage and conservation group.

Michele Dix
Managing director for Crossrail 2 at Transport for London

Leading the work to finalise a preferred route for the trans-capital link, with powers for construction likely to be sought next year.

Trudi Elliott
Chief executive, Royal Town Planning Institute

Chief executive of professional body for planners, and formerly director at the Government Office for the West Midlands.

Rachel Fisher
Head of policy (Delivering Great Homes theme), National Housing Federation

Key campaigner on housing issues. Co-founder of Urbanistas, women-led network on urban issues.

Dame Helen Ghosh
Director-general, National Trust

Former senior civil servant, now in charge of the nationwide heritage protection and landowning organisation.

Ghislaine Halpenny
Director of Communications, BPF

In charge of the organisation’s planning policy work and secretariat support to its planning committee.

Liane Hartley
Built environment expert at the Design Council and founder of design and development social enterprise Mend

Co-founder of Urbanistas, women-led network on urban issues.

Kate Henderson
Chief executive, Town and Country Planning Association

Leads the work of the planning campaigning organisation and is a visiting professor at UCL.

Rhian Kelly
Director for business environment, CBI

Leads the organisation’s campaigning to boost infrastructure, the low-carbon economy and the construction industry.

Alice Lester MBE
Programme manager, Planning Advisory Service

One of two programme managers who leads the PAS and also oversees PAS activities in Bucks, Hants & IOW and Oxon.

Gilian MacInnes
Principal consultant, Planning Advisory Service

Oversees PAS activities in Berkshire, E and W Sussex, Kent and Surrey for the PAS, and is also a member of the CIL Review Group.


Emma Cariaga
Residential development director, British Land

Key role in major retail and residential development firm; also non-executive director of Thames Valley Housing Association.

Jennie Daly
UK director of planning, Taylor Wimpey

Appointed to the key role following previous position as managing director at Harrow Estates.

Louise Ford
Town planning manager, Tesco Stores

Key role at Britain’s largest superstore, advising on planning issues relating to the company’s development strategies.

Alison Nimmo CBE
Chief executive, Crown Estate

Previously director of design and regeneration of the Olympic Delivery Authority, now holds leads the organisation managing Crown assets.

Judith Salomon
Strategic planning and communities director, St George/Berkeley Group

Key role in major housebuilder and property firm.

Annette Simpson
Director of planning and development, Capital and Counties

Key role in property firm focused on central London, including Earls Court.


Karen Cooksley
Partner, Winckworth Sherwood

Heads the firm’s planning team and has played key role in high-profile cases, as well as major infrastructure and regeneration projects.

Claire Dutch
Partner, Hogan Lovells

Leading planning lawyer with experience of a number of high-profile development projects and inquiries.

Morag Ellis QC
Barrister, Francis Taylor Building

One of the country’s top-rated planning barristers and chair of the Planning and Environmental Bar Association.

Nathalie Lieven QC
Barrister, Landmark Chambers

Has worked on large infrastructure projects, including the judicial review of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station for EDF, and the judicial review of High Speed 2 (HS2). She also acted for rail infrastructure owner Network Rail on its new railway link in central Manchester.

Mrs Justice Patterson
Judge, Queen’s Bench Division Judges

Dame Frances Patterson is a High Court judge, specialising in planning, environmental, compulsory purchase and highways law.

Saira Kabir Sheikh QC
Barrister, Francis Taylor Building

Made a QC in 2014 and has played key role in a number of high-profile planning and infrastructure cases.

Justine Thornton QC
Barrister, 39 Essex Chambers

Became a QC in the latest set of appointments and also VIsiting Professor at University College London. Has been involved in high-profile environmental cases and advises on a range of issues including habitats and strategic environmental assessment.

Martha Grekos
Partner, Irwin Mitchell

Leads the firm’s planning and infrastructure team in London and has been involved in an number of major regeneration and infrastructure projects.


Joanna Averley
Director, Billfinger GVA

Former CEO of CABE; now director working in planning, development and regeneration team specialising in major projects.

Margaret Baddeley
Planning director, Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners

Vice-chair of the planning committee of the BPF and adviser to the DCLG.

Jan Bessell
Strategic planning adviser, Pinsent Masons law firm

NSIP examiner and specialist on development consents order and other regulations, for example habitats and EIA etc; formerly with Dickinson Dees.

Joanne Farrar
Practice manager - planning, economic and heritage, Atkins

Senior figure in multi-disciplinary consultancy.

Cristina Howick
Partner, Peter Brett Associates

Specialises in housing need and employment land reviews and has advised the mayor of London and the Welsh Government amongst others.

Nicky Linihan
Director, NJL Solutions Ltd

Recently finished as interim head of planning at Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (also ex-head of planning and transport at Basingstoke & Deane BC), convenor of POS housing delivery committee and chair of the pan-professional local housing requirement assessment working group (

Catriona Riddell
Catriona Riddell Associates

Sole practitioner and leads the POS strategic planning network.

Sue Willcox
Director, Quod

Previously head of planning at Sainsburys and formerly chair of the BPF planning committee, she also sits on the Mayor’s Outer London Commission.


Professor Georgia Butina-Watson
Oxford Brookes University

Head of one of the country’s biggest planning schools.

Emeritus professor Patsy Healey OBE
Emeritus professor of town and country planning, Newcastle University

She is also known for her work on planning theory. She is a past President of the Association of European Schools of Planning, was awarded the OBE (1999), and the RTPI's Gold Medal in 2007. In 2009, she was made a Fellow of the British Academy.

Professor Janice Morphet
Visiting professor, UCL

Known for work on spatial and infrastructure planning.

Professor Riki Therivel
Visiting professor, Oxford Brookes University

Has produced influential work on environmental assessment.

Emeritus professor Christine Whitehead
Emeritus professor of housing economics, LSE, and Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research

Has been involved with producing Influential work on housing policy.

This article was updated a 11:45 on 11/03/16 to correct an error which suggested Morag Ellis QC worked for Cornerstone Barristers. She actually works for Francis Taylor Building.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Join the conversation with PlanningResource on social media

Follow Us:
Planning Jobs