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Laura Brownsword

Planning Officer, Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council

Laura Brownsword - APC Outstanding Achiever 2013Following graduation from Sheffield Hallam University in 2006 with a degree in Planning Studies, I began my career in 2006 as a planning assistant in the Development Management team at Lichfield District Council. After one year at Lichfield I moved on to Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to take up the role of Trainee Development Control Officer.

I completed the Town and Regional Planning postgraduate degree course (Master of Civic Design) at The University of Liverpool on a part time basis from 2008 to 2010. In 2010 an opportunity arose to undertake a 6 month secondment in the planning policy team which I volunteered to take up, seeing it as a great opportunity to expand my knowledge. The secondment was subsequently extended to 18 months and during this time I played a key role in a public / private partnership to take the Council's Urban Design SPD through a public consultation and final amendments stage, to its final adoption in December 2010. I was also lead officer on the production of a Waste Management Planning Practice Guidance Note and assessed and provided consultation comments upon a neighbouring authority's core strategy documents.

I have a developing interest in heritage matters and have gained experience through assisting the Conservation officer with the setting up of an article 4(2) direction, an English Heritage Partnership Scheme in the Newcastle Town Centre Conservation Area, and building at risk surveys.

I became a Development Management Planning Officer upon becoming MRTPI. My role involves managing a case load of planning applications, enforcement cases, pre application enquiries and to represent the Council at appeal. Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has a relatively small planning team therefore I have had the opportunity to deal with a varied and increasingly complex case load including major planning applications and pre application enquiries for major proposals.

Laura's top tips for future candidates:

  • Keep reading through the guidance whilst writing your logbook, PDP and written statement – you will be surprised at what you may miss at first reading.
  • Go to an L-APC event, and make lots of notes to refer back to later. I went to one about three months before submission just to check whether I was on the right lines.
  • Select your case studies for the written statement carefully. I looked at my diary and assessed which cases I had mentioned more frequently and which met all of the assessment criteria in terms of issues they raised. I initially chose three, however ended up removing one so that I could discuss the other two in more detail around the assessment criteria (due to word count limit).
  • If you have a particular interest in an aspect of planning, seek out opportunities to gain experience, as this will help you to write an interesting submission and will assist in demonstrating how you are developing your specialist interests and skills in your PDP.
  • Seek out a mentor. My mentor had not been through the L-APC process himself, however was an experienced senior planner. He read through the guidance and was there to discuss any queries I had. I think I had about four meetings with my mentor in total.
  • Reflecting on what you have learnt from your experiences is a really important aspect of the L-APC process, so make sure adequate time is spent thinking about what you have learnt, why it will be useful, what knowledge needs to be developed further and how you will do this.


Please note: To stay fit for purpose, L-APC requirements do change over time. For the most up to date advice please always refer to the L-APC Guidance on the Licenitate APC webpage. Candidate details provided here are current at time of L-APC submission in 2013.