Careers: Renewing our cities

A planning career has given Mark Canning, project manager at the Northwest Development Agency, the opportunity to work with his beloved Liverpool Football Club.

As part of his responsibilities on the agency's major projects team, Canning has been in charge of the public realm works at the club's new 60,000-seater stadium. Not only is all this allowing him to fulfil a dream he has had since he was a boy, but it is giving him the opportunity to address his second love - regeneration. "The agency is putting £10 million into facilitating regeneration in the surrounding area through infrastructure such as street lighting, paving and transport," he explains.

Canning measures each project in terms of time, cost and quality. Every scheme also has to complement the North West's regional economic strategy and take account of government guidance on matters such as sustainability.

Planning is suited to managing such projects, he believes. "It is like being the manager of the England football team - everyone thinks they can do it better," he says. "But in fact you need a broad range of skills. You need to be a jack of all trades to have a positive impact on the environment."

John Francis, a partner at planning consultancy DPP, works as a project co-ordinator on major regeneration initiatives. This means managing a team of skilled professionals, ranging from transport planners and engineers to architects and conservation experts.

DPP's task is to help developers make their ambitious plans to turn around depressed areas. work in practice. "Clients often come along with a fantastic scheme that is not supportable in planning terms. We have to use our brains to help them find a way through the policy maze," says Francis.

Troubleshooting is a crucial part of the job. Obstacles might include a badly contaminated site, poor access, flooding or local authority restrictions on development. "You'll find that unforeseen problems always crop up and you have to be adaptable, resourceful and innovative to deal with them. These are challenges to relish, not problems to shy away from," says Francis.

"You simply cannot fault planning as an interesting profession. No two projects are the same," he adds. One major scheme Francis worked on back in the 1980s is the Canary Wharf complex in London's docklands: "It's fantastic to go back and see it now and know I had a role in such an iconic scheme."

PROFILE

KATHERINE GRAY

Planner, Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners MSc in Town Planning, Newcastle University

- What attracted you to planning?

It combines my interest in physical and human geography and offers good career prospects.

- What are your main duties?

To prepare planning applications and collating the data needed for area action plans.

- What do you enjoy about your job?

The sense that I'm helping to create more sustainable communities for the future.

- What has been your career highlight?

The York North West project, working with local people to regenerate a major city site.


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