Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I'm Clare Cook, and I've recently returned to work part time for a private national company, following a career break as I have young twins. Before my career break I was Development and Building Control Manager for local government and previously I worked as a local authority officer in both development management and planning policy.
What encouraged you to get involved in Planning Aid England?
I decided to get involved with Planning Aid England (PAE) when I gave up my job to look after my children. I knew that one day I would want to return to planning and PAE allowed me to keep up to date with what's happening and to keep up my CPD requirements.
What kinds of activities have you been involved in so far?
My main activity at the moment is Neighbourhood Planning. I have attended meetings with local groups, councillors and local planning authorities to discuss Neighbourhood Planning and I have also presented elements of the "Are you fit" workshops to different groups. I have provided comments on planning packs which have been prepared by PAE and prevously I have undertaken training with local schools to try and encourage younger people into built environment careers.
Volunteering helped me to maintain my generic skills such as presenting and communicating with different people and also allowed me to maintain confidence levels
How has your volunteering helped your professional development?
There is no doubt that volunteering has helped me in my professional development. PAE provides a number of training sessions which are brilliant for keeping up to date with what is happening. As well as keeping abreast of legislative changes I have also been able to work in the policy side of planning which I have really enjoyed, especially working with different groups of people.
I also think that when you are on a career break it is easy to forget the work environment: volunteering helped me to maintain my generic skills such as presenting and communicating with different people and also allowed me to maintain confidence levels, as sometimes as a mum you do tend to be in your own bubble! The thought of returning to work was exciting for me and because I had volunteered I felt confident that I was up to date and I had maintained my CPD requirements, as well as learning other skills along the way. Volunteering definitely made it easier for me to go back to work.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone thinking about volunteering?
I would say that that you need to be committed to planning to volunteer for PAE. You need to take on tasks that interest you and ones that you can dedicate time to. I'm lucky, I have a brilliant relationship with my co-ordinator and I know she will always provide me with support if I need it. I think like anything you get out out of volunteering what you put in....Go for it!
If you're interested in volunteering for Planning Aid England...
Please see our How to apply page.