The things I know - Simon Prescott, Director, Barton Willmore, Bristol

- Where did you study planning?

I graduated from Bristol Polytechnic with a degree in town and country planning and an RTPI-recognised qualification.

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

The ability to negotiate with my bank manager for an ever-bigger overdraft.

- What attracted you to planning?

I enjoyed geography at school and my careers adviser suggested it as a possible profession. I didn't really understand exactly what the job of a town planner would involve but I had a love of the built environment and it seemed the logical thing to do.

- What did you learn in your first job?

The difference between essays and report writing is huge. You need to come to clear conclusions and be precise in how you justify them. Never take anything for granted. Always ask the question: "But is that right?"

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

A good consultant should adopt a forensic approach to problem-solving and developing a case. I support the greater emphasis that is now being placed on evidence-based decision-making. It is not good enough to simply assert that you are right - you need to prove it.

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

I owe a lot to everyone I've worked for.

- What is your career highlight?

Finally getting planning permission for more than 2,000 homes on a site after working for more than 60 hours a week for many months.

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

I took nearly two years out travelling and came back with a renewed passion for doing what I do.

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

The ability to get through the current recession.

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

Critical. Planning consultants lead huge teams of specialists and must often reconcile competing objectives.

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