The things I know

Paul Watson, Director of regeneration and development, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.

- Where did you study planning?

I qualified in planning at the University of Central England in Birmingham. But I have also learned from every village, town and city that I have visited before and since.

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

The main ones were spatial analysis, logic and the ability to think through consequences. I was also able to draw on an historical perspective on urban and rural growth, decline and regeneration and the impact of these on people and the environment.

- What attracted you to a career in planning?

I wanted to make a difference to people's lives.

- What did you learn in your first job?

I discovered that tact and a professional approach are essential. Planners also need to experience places before coming to conclusions.

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

Multidisciplinary working, urban design, negotiating techniques and advocacy have come to the fore during my time.

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

Peter Brand for his enthusiasm for urban design and beauty, Geoff Wheeler for his professionalism and James Russell for having fun while setting about the serious business of making the world a better place.

- What is your career highlight?

I served as president of the Planning Officers Society in 2004-05 and remain a vice-president emeritus.

- What have you learnt outside work that has influenced your career?

When to laugh, when to cry, when to stay silent, when to lead, when to follow and when to stand up and be counted.

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

How to play the banjo.

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

Vital. We all make an impact on the natural and built environment and the quality of people's lives.

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