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Learning from Experience

Learning from Experience – a Centenary Project

We invited some of our longest serving members in the Yorkshire Region to tell us what inspired them, the challenges they faced in their planning career and their regrets. Read what they have to say.

Michael Hildyard updatedMichael Hildyard

Mike's career started in 1961 as an Articled Pupil to the Town Planning Officer of Kingston upon Hull, finishing 11 years later as a Chartered Planner and deputy head of development control. In 1974 he left to join East Riding County Council as area planning officer and in 1974 joined Beverley Borough Council as head of policy and local plans, retiring as Deputy Chief Planning Officer in 1996. Since then he has been a planning consultant, is Chairman of a local Parish Council and Vice Chairman of Beverley and District Civic Society.

Mick WoodwardMick (Thomas) Woodward

Mick Woodward served Sheffield city as a planner for all his professional life and has been a member of the RTPI for over 50 years. Aged 16, he left school and joined the City Planning Office in Sheffield as the office boy. Having served in the army between 1945 and 48, he returned to work in the City Engineer's Department, where he studied part-time for his professional examinations. He took up the post of Head of Development Control in 1975, a post he held for 12 years, until his retirement in 1987.


Eric CowinEric Cowin

Eric Cowin's early career began with the Ordnance Survey in the late 1950s. He joined Leeds City Council in 1964,weathered the 1974 local government reorganisation in development control and eventually headed up the Urban Development Unit in the 1980's through to the 90's. Addressing inner city socio-economic issues as well as development regeneration on Leeds Waterfront, he formed strong partnerships to successfully improve water quality, biodiversity and access on the Leeds stretch of the River Aire, the longest urban river corridor in Britain outside London. He won Leeds Civic Trust's "Spirit of Leeds Award" in 2004 for these achievements, which he acknowledged should be shared with the many individuals he worked with in the partnerships he fostered. His last 8 years have been spent developing similar partnerships, addressing similar issues in the Wyke Beck Valley, Leeds, now being designated as a Local Nature Reserve.


Peter SpawforthPeter Spawforth

Peter Spawforth MBE was born in Wakefield in 1936 but moved to Leeds before WW2 when his dad worked in engineering and his mum was a district nurse. As both grandparents' families came from farming backgrounds they enjoyed living near old Beeston village, then on the edge of countryside.  Creeping urbanisation made its mark on both South Leeds and Peter. Married to Pat for 51 years, Peter has 3 sons and a daughter all qualified in various creative skills.  Half Peter's career has been in local government and the second half developing the Spawforth practice of Architecture, Planning and Urbanism.  Since retirement he and Pat have enjoyed worldwide travel.


Mike CroftMike Croft

Mike Croft was born in 1937 in Nottinghamshire. Educated at Leeds (MA Geography and Dip TP). Worked mainly in local government from 1960 to 1986: Leeds, Newcastle upon Tyne, West Riding, South Yorkshire. Work now: Planning Inspector since 1986, Scottish Government Reporter since 2007, some private practice. Spare time (a very short history): Marathon runner and failed ascent of Mont Blanc, walking the Munros (all done 1997 - 2007), singing, stirring. Spare time now: walking the Wainwrights (all being done 2007+), singing in 3 choirs, stirring, enjoying the achievements of the next two generations, thinking about the next project. Current location: classified (gang of disaffected appellants might pay a visit).


Robert MarshallRobert Marshall

Bob Marshall was born just a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and his childhood was spent in London where he lived with his parents in a council house on a large 1930s estate in the Borough of Lewisham.  At age 18, he left the parental home to take up a place at university to read Geography.  On graduation, he secured his first planning job with the London County Council studying, at the same time, for a Diploma in Town Planning.  On the award of his diploma he moved to Oxford City Council.  In 1966 he was appointed to the post of lecturer in the newly established Department of Town and Regional Planning at Sheffield University.  Little did he then realise that he would remain at Sheffield for the remainder of his professional life, becoming senior lecturer and taking on spells as Dean of the Faculty of Architectural Studies and Head of Department.  He served as a member of the Executive Committee of the RTPI Yorkshire Branch between 1985 and 1991, including a year as Chair in 1990.  He retired in 2004 but remains a member of the Sheffield Conservation Advisory Group.

June Hargreaves

June was born in 1937. She attended Keighley Girls' Grammar School. She worked for York City Council, latterly as Assistant City Planning Officer. She was elected MRTPI in 1963. She wrote a book 'Historic Buildings Problems Of Their Preservation' in 1964. She was awarded an MBE for services to conservation in 1975. She took early retirement from local government on health grounds and later worked for a time in Saltaire with Roger Suddards and became co-author with him of the book 'Listed Buildings: The Law and Practice of Historic Buildings, Ancient Monuments and Conservation Areas'(1995). She has also written 'The History of Ickornshaw Methodist Church' (1976) and 'A Brief History of the Village of Cowling' for the Cowling Moonrakers (revised 2005). She received an Honorary Masters Degree from York University in 1987, and became an Honorary Doctor of the University in 2000. June was a director of the York Archaeological Trust from 1979 to 2005, and has been a director of the Yorkshire Buildings Preservation Trust since 1990 and a Trustee of the York Civic Trust since 1991. She is also Vice Chairman and Foundation Trustee of the York Consortium for Conservation and Craftsmanship. She sits on the Historic Churches Committee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough and is a member of the Listed Buildings Advisory Committee of the Methodist Church.

RMB members

We also asked our current Regional Management Board members to participate, Read what they have to say.

Simon Smales

Simon Smales 2Simon has over 30 years of experience in the public sector, and latterly in the private sector, having held Director and Chief Planning Officer positions in large local authorities. He was UDP Group Leader with Doncaster Council and when he left the authority in 2002, after 13 years in the Council, he was the Head of Strategic Development with responsibility for local planning, economic development, town centre management, the Local Transport Plan and other environmental work areas. From 2002 to 2008 he was Assistant Director of Business and Environmental Services and Chief Planning Officer with North Yorkshire County Council. His last local authority appointment was an interim job for 9 months as Director of City Planning for Nottingham City Council in 2010. He has also worked as Director of Planning with a Sustainable Development Company in London.

Simon is currently working as a spatial planning manager with the ATLAS planning team based in Leeds and part of the Homes and Communities Agency.


Ken BurleyKen Burley

Ken Burley has worked for 7 local planning authorities in West, South and North Yorkshire and the West Midlands, in a career beginning in the mid sixties. Career highlights have included leading on the Robin Hood International Airport and his involvement in Coalfield Regeneration, restoration of Cusworth Hall and Park, and of course Regional and Local Planning. Following his retirement as Head of Planning Services at Doncaster Council in 2004, Ken set up as a sole practitioner. Since then he has had a range of private and public sector clients in the Yorkshire and East Midlands regions. In particular he has worked for Hambleton District Council on their Local Development Framework, handling public consultation and for a time the Thirsk Area Allocations DPD.

Ken is a keen RTPI Member; at the national level he is the Yorkshire Regions current General Assembly representative, and a Member of the Education and Life Long Learning Committee and Accreditation Panel while chairing the Distance Learning MA Consortium Partnership Board. Regionally he chairs the Yorkshire Planning Aid Committee (he is an active Planning Aid Volunteer) and the European Network and is a former Branch Chair. Ken is also active in the IHBC Yorkshire Branch; heritage has long been one of his passions, hence his engagement with the South Yorkshire BPT and the Friends of Cusworth Park.


Bob WolfeBob Wolfe

Bob Wolfe started in the Cambridge planning office in 1964 as a technician. He gradually progressed northwards via Huntingdon and Peterborough, arriving in Leeds in 1971 where he was appointed as Conservation Planner. In the 1980s led to the Council's city centre implementation team through a period of rapid change and joined Leeds Development Corporation in 1988. From 1995 onwards, Bob has worked as an independent consultant planner on a number of major projects throughout the UK. He is currently Hon Secretary of RTPI Yorkshire.

Stan DriverStan Driver

Stan studied at the Department of Town & Country Planning at Newcastle University, graduating with BA (Land Use Studies) in 1965. He worked first for the West Riding County Council in the Environment Section of the County Planning Department, and was elected MRTPI in 1968. Following spells in development planning at Rotherham County Borough Council and York City Council, he returned to the West Riding County Council, from which he joined Kirklees Metropolitan council as a team leader in 1974, working initially on corporate planning including new housing and housing improvement schemes, and later on local plans. He followed this by work on Government regeneration projects, and was seconded to be the Housing and Environmental Regeneration Manager for Batley City Challenge between 1995 and 1998. On his return to Kirklees he became the conservation team leader, being elected as a member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation in 2001.

Stan retired from local government in 2007, but remains a full member of the RTPI and the IHBC, and has since been a planning aid volunteer. His involvement with the RTPI Yorkshire Region has been and remains extensive.

Our young planners

And finally we asked some of our young planners to tell us what inspired them to become a planner. Read their stories.

Matthew TurnbullMatthew Turnbull 

Matthew joined Turley in January 2013 with 15 months' experience from working with DLP Planning Ltd. Since graduating with his masters in Town and Regional Planning in 2011, he has worked on a range of residential and renewable energy projects across the UK. He has recently obtained his chartered RTPI membership. Matthew joined the YORnet steering group when he joined Turley.



 Emma LancasterEmma Lancaster

Emma began her planning career in 2006 at Hambleton District Council and moved to East Riding of Yorkshire Council in late 2007. In her current role she deals with a varied caseload of major and strategic development proposals across the East Riding of Yorkshire area, whilst also managing a small team of professional planners. Emma is an RTPI Ambassador and is currently taking part in the flagship project for the centenary year, Future Planners. Emma has also been invited to sit on the RTPI's APC Advisory Panel and will begin her term later this year.