The RTPI Young Planner Trustee for 2016-2017 is Lucy Seymour-Bowdery.
The RTPI Board of Trustees is responsible for the management of the affairs of the Institute and promoting its objectives, with the Young Planner Representative providing the voice or the Institute's young planners. Lucy is a Senior Planner at West Sussex County Council and Chair of the South Coast Young Planners Network.
Career in Focus:
An Interview with Lucy Seymour-Bowdery
How and why did you embark on your planning career?
Having achieved my degree in English Literature, I started working for a local authority and was inspired by the work of the planning department. I became a planning technician and was given the opportunity to undertake a part time Master's degree in Planning and Sustainability at Kingston University. It was then that I decided to specialise in planning policy.
What does your current job involve?
As a Senior Planner in the Strategic Planning department, I am the County Council lead officer for planning policy support and infrastructure planning for Arun District, Chichester District and the South Downs National Park. My role is to ensure the County Council's interests and infrastructure requirements are reflected in emerging local planning policy. I work with these three Local Planning Authorities to shape emerging planning policy at each stage of the Local Plan preparation process. I also work with developers of strategic sites, local council members, community groups and other organisations such as Highways England.
What skills and knowledge do you need to be successful in your job?
Partnership working is integral to operating in a two-tier system of local government. I therefore need excellent communication skills to mediate and manage expectations. Written communication is essential for writing reports with a clear understanding of the audience and for setting out infrastructure requirements to ensure development can be delivered. Good analytical skills are also key to developing a robust evidence base for policies.
As well as knowledge of national and local planning policy, I need to have good knowledge and understanding of the County Council's statutory duties and legislation regarding a range of services including education, transport, fire & rescue, libraries, waste management and flood risk management.
What are the best and worst points about your job?
I enjoy working for a county council as it allows me to be involved in a variety of projects at a strategic level across rural, urban and coastal areas. The downside can be limited local authority resources, which is always challenging.
What made you want to be the Young Planners Representative on the RTPI Board of Trustees?
I thoroughly enjoyed my first year as Chair of the South Coast Young Planners' Network. We organised the national Young Planners' Conference in Southampton last October and this opened my eyes to the many opportunities available when volunteering for the RTPI. It improved my confidence and provided me with a range of skills that I would not necessarily have gained through my employment. When the opportunity to join the Board came up, I felt that it was a great opportunity to give something back to the Institute and put myself forward.
Do you feel you have gained something from the experience?
Yes, I have gained a wealth of experience in such a short space of time. Being a Board member has allowed me to be part of the big decisions, which can be very exciting! I am able to put forward my views in an inclusive environment and contribute towards the running of the RTPI.
What advice would you give to students and recent graduates about to start their career in Town Planning?
- Be patient - you may not jump straight from university to your dream job. Look for opportunities to gain experience - this could be through temp work, volunteering, working as a planning technician or working in a planning-related discipline.
- Expect and embrace change - it may come as a surprise, but the UK planning system is never static. It is vitally important to keep up-to-date with new guidance and legislation, and these will change your approach on a continual basis.
- Remember that planning is about people and places - it can be easy to become caught up in processes, but make sure you take the time to step outside your day job. The annual Young Planners' Conference can be a fantastic way for you to meet those who are working in a similar field and share knowledge and experience in a dynamic setting.