Careers: Making a good mix

Most of the UK is going through a major development drive.

All over the country large-scale projects combining homes, workplaces, shops, leisure facilities, schools and hospitals are springing up. Planners are key to making them happen.

The planning system plays a pivotal role in regulating the use of land and the design of buildings. Over the past 20 years the focus has shifted to a complementary mix of land uses and infrastructure to create sustainable communities.

"What has always motivated me as a planner is my interest in how places, and particularly cities, work," says Mike Ibbott, a director at the Bennett Urban Planning consultancy. Two-thirds of his work is for private developers. In the final analysis, he admits, everything turns around securing that all-important planning permission for a development to go ahead.

But along the way Ibbott has to reconcile different interests, such as an architect's vision or a developer's desire to make a profit. He needs to build a rapport with local people and negotiate with the local authority planning team, while following the rules of the planning process.

The key is to ask the right questions and seek advice from the experts. The satisfaction comes when permission is granted for a complicated scheme. "We won two appeals in three days earlier this year and we were going around the office punching the air for a week," says Ibbott.

Alan Graham is a development planning adviser for regeneration agency English Partnerships. As part of its national consultancy unit, Graham offers expert guidance to project managers on major schemes. He is advising Rushmoor Borough Council on an urban extension in Aldershot, which holds out the potential for 4,500 new homes on a former Ministry of Defence site.

Graham has been involved in the regeneration of disused hospital sites to provide homes and community facilities. Whatever the site's history, there must be good quality standards for new developments. The government's code for sustainable homes is always followed in English Partnerships projects by setting high targets for energy, waste and materials.

But neighbourhoods also have to be well conceived, Graham insists. "It's about ensuring that we are creating sustainable communities with a good mix of employment, education and retail," he says. "Building more homes is important but you don't want an unbalanced community with housing and nothing else."

PROFILE

DAVID KEENE

Director, David Lock Associates

Diploma in Town Planning, Kingston Polytechnic

- What attracted you to planning?

I thought I could help make some big changes to the way the world around me is developed.

- What are your main duties?

Helping private clients to secure planning permission for developments and drawing up regeneration strategies for the public sector.

- What do you enjoy about your job?

The variety of issues we address.

- What has been your career highlight?

Gaining planning consent for the old Liverpool Airport redevelopment.


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