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The RTPI speaks with newly elected Chartered Trustee Samer Bagaeen

The Royal Town Planning Institute speaks with Samer Bagaeen on becoming a newly elected Chartered Trustee, and his journey into planning. An abridged version of this interview was first published in The Planner.

What do you hope to achieve through your work as Chartered Trustee?

This is in fact the second time I serve as a Chartered Trustee. I first served in 2017-2017 at a time when I took time out from teaching planning to working as an Associate Director with the Rockefeller resilience programme.

That was a moment of change, for me personally, and for the nation as the UK struggled to come to terms with the outcome of the EU referendum. This time, things feel both the same but different. I am splitting my time between Arcadis and the Kent planning school, and the nation is coming to terms with huge challenges testing our resilience.

What I therefore hope to achieve as a member of the Board is to lay the foundations for a resilient profession. I hope to do so through empathetic leadership and effective communication with members.

How will you use your eclectic and international experience to help inform the Institute?

My experience in the private sector and in higher education, but also in the public sector, has taught me that patience, diplomacy, and the ability to adapt are critical to success. Relationships are critical to effective delivery of projects and plans.

I have also found that effective, honest and meaningful consultation will keep not only communities, but also city leaders and mayors on side. I fondly remember how when I once flew into Tbilisi in Georgia to meet the then newly elected mayor, he really appreciated me taking the time to do so and made it known that I was the first guest, partner, and trusted advisor he met. That meeting served to strengthen our relationship.

My interest in the built environment and then in planning stems from growing up in Jordan.

It is this ability to build strong and lasting relationships that I will leverage as a Trustee to strengthen the relationship between the Institute, its members, and its member firms in those markets and regions where our members are delivering with impact.

What inspired you to get into the planning industry, and what has been your motivation throughout your career?

My interest in the built environment and then in planning stems from growing up in Jordan. My late father studied architecture in Cairo before going on to study planning at Newcastle in the 1960s. I did the same. I left Jordan for what was then the Borough of Hove for my A Levels before going on to the Bartlett’s integrated degree in architecture, planning, building and environmental studies.

My first job after my masters was in higher education and my first job after my PhD was in the regeneration of military brownfields. My passion is the training of planners – I am probably one of only a handful of people who have set up new planning schools. That’s what’s kept me in planning and I am proud to say that I have found a different way to support the pipeline of planning talent in my new home with Arcadis.

You work in three sectors. How do you find the time?

I am working at present in the private sector with Arcadis, in higher education with the Kent planning school, and in local government as a councillor. What I am finding, and I am learning all the time, is that there is a lot of complementarity between these. I am also thankful for the opportunity to take on board the cross-learning that these opportunities provide.

Technology has been a blessing and a great help in enabling me to deliver for clients, for students, for the profession and for residents. All four offer a platform where planning can and is delivering on net zero and climate action. That’s our mission as a profession and as members and we use prudently the time that we have, we will be able to deliver a resilient future alongside a resilient profession.

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