The Things I Know

Kelvin Macdonald, chief policy adviser, RTPI

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

I took a BSc in town planning at Heriot-Watt University.

- What attracted you to planning?

Being a fairly sad person, I was first attracted by reading the 1964 South East Plan. It showed me that planning combined a knowledge of geography with an interest in doing something that would benefit people.

- What did you learn in your first job?

I learned that an excellent piece of work merits excellent presentation.

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

One skill that you can only learn by doing is public speaking. The second key skill that cannot be taught is how to synthesise a mass of material and get quickly to the heart of an issue.

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

I love working with anyone who combines commitment and a high level of skills and knowledge with an innate ability to have fun. While I owe a lot to a lot of people, Francis Tibbalds, Andy Karski, Tom Clarke and David Hall spring to mind immediately.

- What is your career highlight?

Seeing students you have taught graduate and knowing that you have influenced policy for the better is very satisfying. But I guess my highlight is also my greatest failure - setting up ROOM as a pressure group with a unique way of working and then not being able to sustain its momentum.

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

I tend to listen more than talk in my social life and that is something some planners could do a tiny bit more of.

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

I am becoming more involved in facilitation and, like many planners, I also need to understand more about development drivers.

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

Vital. Any professional group needs outside stimulus. I cannot understand why there is animosity between some planners and architects, surveyors and housing professionals.

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