Assistant Environmental Planner: Terence O'Rourke
What was your previous job?
After graduating from University of Brighton where I studied Environmental Science, I took a year out to give me time to consider my future career. During this time, I managed a summer school in Winchester, led a group of volunteers on a water health and sanitation project in rural Tanzania, worked as a chalet host in a ski resort in France and then as an outdoor learning tutor at Wide Horizons Learning Trust in Dorset.
Having enjoyed assisting with planning tasks for almost a year, I was offered the opportunity to study part-time for a degree in Spatial Planning and Development at the University of Reading.
How did you find your route into planning?
I started working at interdisciplinary practice Terence O'Rourke in 2015 within the EIA team. This role was a logical progression from my degree. My role covered a wide environmental remit, from providing advice early in a project such as site appraisals or selection, and EIA screening and scoping, through to attendance of team meetings and public exhibitions, writing environmental statement chapters and assisting in the coordination of EIAs.
Working closely with my planning colleagues I quickly realised how interlinked the two areas are. It became apparent that having an in-depth knowledge of both planning and EIA would bring clear benefits to both clients and my career. Since starting my course [part-time degree in Spatial Planning and Development at the University of Reading], my role has evolved so that I now assist with projects in both an EIA and planning context.
What does your job involve?
In addition to the responsibilities outlined above, day-to-day my role involves close liaison with clients and local authorities, and includes in-depth planning research, the submission of applications, drafting planning statements and local plan representations.
I particularly enjoy community workshops and exhibitions where I get the opportunity to talk to members of the public about proposals which draws upon both my knowledge of planning and EIA. I also relish undertaking the detailed research necessary to help build a strong planning case.
Working on both the EIA and planning aspects of a project helps to give me a more complete and holistic perspective of the scheme, which I've found to be particularly advantageous when providing advice to colleagues and clients.
What advice would you give to people hoping to get into planning?
Something I wish I had been told when studying my undergraduate degree is just how helpful work experience can be. Many employers provide work experience opportunities, be it a few days taster or several months employment over the summer. If you are unsure about what you want to do or are actively looking to start a career in planning, contact companies and local authorities. This will help give a clear idea of whether planning is for you, and you never know, if you impress there may be a job waiting at the end of it.