The Guide to Careers in Planning 2008-09 - A diverse workload

Qualified planners are not stuck for choice of career paths. Planning practice covers a huge variety of activity, ranging from the local to the national, and offers a choice between many different types of employer.

Planners may be putting together and promoting developments or they may be on the receiving end when applications arrive at local authority development control departments. Many are involved in producing plans and strategies, starting from individual sites and neighbourhoods and moving up to broader strategies for districts, counties, regions and even whole nations.

Planners can be found throughout the public, private and voluntary sectors working for councils, large and small consultancies, central government departments, official bodies such as the Environment Agency, local and regional regeneration agencies, development companies, universities, transport operators and utilities providers.

"The variety of work allows me to develop my understanding of different land uses and geographical locations," says Alan Pearce, a partner at Bristol-based Alder King Planning Consultants. "I really enjoy working as part of a multidisciplinary team on projects which promote good design and have sustainable credentials."

Pearce considered architecture but opted for the University of the West of England's undergraduate planning course. His first job was in the planning team at a large architectural firm. A career highlight has been working on a distribution centre and sustainable housing scheme in Somerset. At Alder King, duties include preparing planning applications, appeals, planning appraisals, negotiations with developers, project design, masterplans and running public consultations.

Beatrice Nichol worked for six years in information services before deciding she wanted a more creative and challenging job. Since qualifying from a postgraduate planning course at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and taking up a post as an assistant planning officer at Scottish Borders Council, she has found her niche.

Nichol is involved in a review of the council's development plan and the preparation of guidance to developers and the public. She is also responsible for the Berwickshire area, which means contributing to site design briefs and responding to consultations on planning applications.

"I really enjoy the diversity of my job and the range of people I meet such as ecologists, architects and engineers," she says. To progress in her career she will be studying urban design part-time at Newcastle University next year.

PROFILE - RUTH LESTER, Senior planner, Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners

As a senior planner in Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners' Manchester office, Ruth Lester works on residential, industrial, leisure, retail, regeneration and research projects. Her interest in the built environment and regeneration attracted her onto Cardiff University's undergraduate course in city and regional planning. Tasks include preparing and negotiating planning applications, co-ordinating environmental assessments and making representations on development plans. "Working in a new office has given me more exposure to clients and a first-hand understanding of their objectives," she says.

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