Five candidates were awarded commendations by the Membership Assessment Advisory Panel (MAAP) for submitting high quality APC submissions in 2019. Here these candidates share their top tips for those looking to apply.
(L-R, Tom Wilson, Catherine O’Toole, Lara Peter, Tillie Baker and Isabelle Joyce)
Applied Through: Associate APC route
Commended: Whole submissionit’s worth keeping in contact and maintaining good relationships
- BSc City and Regional Planning - Cardiff University
I’m the Infrastructure Lead for Government’s Oxford-Cambridge Arc Unit. Government’s aim is to realise transformational economic growth across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, supported by connectivity improvements and new housing. I work closely with local partners, stakeholders, government departments and politicians to deliver the transport and utilities infrastructure to make this happen.
Before this, I sponsored the development of three strategic road schemes at the Department for Transport: the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, realignment of the A1 in the East of England and schemes for the M25 South West Quadrant. I was the specialist transport planner responsible for ownership of these projects for Government and led the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway through the corridor selection process.
Prior to Government, I was a Transport Consultant for Arup where I worked on active transport projects, transport plans for new developments as well as strategic road and rail schemes.
I received a first-class honours degree in City and Regional Planning from Cardiff University in 2015. As part of this I undertook a year placement at Transport for London where I assessed the strategic transport impacts of new developments.
My advice to prospective APC candidates is to pick an interesting case study, apply when you have the right experience and plan time enough time to develop your application. Current and former colleagues were a great support to me through the APC process; it’s worth keeping in contact and maintaining good relationships.
Applied through: Licentiate APC route
Commended: PES, PCSMake sure your submission reads coherently across the documents
- BA (Hons) Geography – Lancaster University
- MA Town and Regional Planning – University of Sheffield
Following my degree, I started as a Graduate Planner at Pegasus Group where I undertook a variety of tasks including site appraisals, preparation and submission of planning applications and assisting in the project management of various sites. I have continued to work at Pegasus Group and have since been promoted to my current role as Senior Planner. I have gained valuable experience of knowledge of how the planning system works in practice and am now able to lead and take greater responsibility on projects. This included working an applications, local plan promotions and appeals.
I have worked on various large-scale projects including residential, commercial and motorway service area developments. This has involved working with various technical disciplines, managing relationships with clients and leading on negotiations with the Local Planning Authority. I have been involved in consultation and engagement events which has helped me learn how to communicate about planning with the public.
- Keep on top of your log book/reflective journal – filling in your log book or journal as you go along makes it much easier to write your final submission as you have a clear record of what you have been doing over the two year period. If you leave it until the end you inevitably forget some of what you experienced and learnt early on.
- Make sure you keep in mind the competencies when writing your PCS – The PCS needs to demonstrate that you meet all of the competencies so keep referring back to them when writing this section. This helped me stick to the task, avoided me getting distracted and stay within the word count.
- Make sure your submission reads coherently across the documents – For example, the PES sets out your experience to date so your SWOT analysis in the PDP should reflect this and could identify any gaps in your experience to date. The goals, objectives and action plan should then identify specific actions to address the identified weaknesses.
- Listen to your mentor’s advice and stick to their deadlines – If your mentor sets deadlines for drafts as you go along then try to stick to them and provide them with a draft to review. This will help you get timely feedback and improve your final submission.
Applied through: Experience Practitioner APC route
Commended: PES, PCSUnderstand that preparing your application is not a tick-box exercise.
- Bachelors Political Science and Law at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany
- MA Environemental Policy - Lincoln University, New Zealand
During my studies, the 2010/11 Canterbury earthquakes destroyed much of the city, an experience which heavily influenced my future career – as it resulted in me wanting to become a planner. In 2012, I started as a graduate planner in development management at Christchurch City Council, working mainly on the rebuild of the city, including the repair of its infrastructure such as the industrial port. Infrastructure planning quickly became a particular interest of mine.
In 2015, I moved to London, starting as a planning officer in development management at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Initially, I was mainly responsible for processing householder, listed building and other types of planning applications. The following year I was promoted into a senior officer role in strategic developments and had the opportunity to work on major regeneration projects, council-own developments, as well as the delivery of a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) which required a development consent order (DCO) under the Planning Act 2008 – the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
I continued working on a variety of schemes in my next role as a senior planner at the London Borough of Wandsworth before moving into the private sector in 2017. At WSP, I started as a senior planning consultant before being promoted into a principal and now associate role, where I am mainly working on the delivery of NSIPs in the energy, aviation and transport sectors. To date, planning for resilient infrastructure remains my passion.
- Understand that preparing your application is not a tick-box exercise. Your PCS is not about simply listing examples of how you met each competency from the guidance, it’s about presenting an analytical and rounded demonstration of your skills, competencies and experience. I approached it how I would approach the preparation of a planning statement or officer’s report – I wouldn’t look at a single policy in isolation when assessing a proposed development, likewise I took a holistic approach to my submission and made sure I connected the dots between my competencies, case studies and the PCS, PES and PDP. The APC guidance is extremely helpful for this – read it very carefully, and then re-read it regularly while preparing your submission.
- Allow for enough time to prepare your submission and choose a good mentor who also has the time, and the expertise, to support you. After I prepared my first draft, I left it for a week or two and then revisited it together with my mentor. Upon reflection it turned out that some of my examples I had chosen to demonstrate competencies were not the best choice, which I only realised after looking at my PCS with a fresh pair of eyes and after analysing it with my mentor in more detail. If you leave it until the last minute you won’t have time for this. Listen to your mentor’s feedback – it can be invaluable.
- Preparing your application whilst also juggling work and private life can be stressful, but try to get the most out of it by using the process as an opportunity to reflect on your career to date, and on your goals for the future. Be honest about areas where you may need to improve, or about things that have gone wrong in the past. The core competency of reflection and review, and the PDP, are there for a reason. Having gone through the Experienced Practitioner APC-Route was a great opportunity for me to take stock of my career and revisit some lessons learnt, which really helped me to build a clearer vision of where I want my career to go and what skillsets I want to develop further.
Applied through: Associate APC route
Commended: PCSThe challenge of the APC is to prepare a submission that is both rich and illustrative while also being clear and concise.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts - University of New South Wales
- Master of Regional Planning- Cornell University, USA
After leaving school I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sydney, in my native Australia. I was inspired to become a planner after moving to London in 2007, where I worked in the Learning Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum. My very supportive manager, who was aware of my interest in planning, encouraged me to do undertake a research study on the museum’s public spaces, which was later published in the Museum’s online journal.
In 2012 my husband and I moved to upstate New York, where I studied for my Masters in Regional Planning at Cornell University. My student visa allowed me to work in the United States for one year, and after graduating in 2014, I was offered a position with HUNT Engineers near the City of Corning, where I prepared comprehensive plans for local governments. Planners in the US are at the forefront of advocating for more sustainable development patterns, often with tools (such as zoning) that are still very much geared towards a 20th Century worldview and are notoriously difficult to change. It was a fascinating experience to work in a predominantly rural area interspersed with historic towns and cities still marked by misguided urban renewal policies of the postwar era, which privileged highway development and eroded urban neighbourhoods all over the United States.
After moving back to the UK in 2015, I worked at Rapleys LLP in Manchester for just over three years, where I gained experience in retail and residential development and worked hard to get my head around the UK planning system. I moved to Arup (Manchester) in late 2018, where I have diversified my experience in health and education development and planning policy. I also lead the Education, Careers and Mentoring Task Group of the RTPI’s North West Regional Activities Committee.
- See it as a test of your writing skills. The challenge of the APC is to prepare a submission that is both rich and illustrative while also being clear and concise. It needs to provide a compelling summary of your contribution to assessors who have no prior knowledge about you. Help them by explaining the context of your case studies, and don’t expect them to read between the lines. You may feel like you’re stating the obvious sometimes – that’s okay.
- Get the basics right. Following the formatting instructions is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate that you’ve read the guidance. It’s important to use footnotes to link the various pieces of your submission together and help the assessors to navigate through your work. Making use of references and providing a bibliography will make your submission more meaningful and shows theoretical understanding.
- Be choosy with examples. It’s tempting to add as many examples as possible to show you’re meeting the competencies. Instead, it’s important to use examples that best illustrate what you’re trying to say. Further detail can be added to your log book or reflective journal.
- Make it unique to you. It can be helpful to read other successful submissions to understand how people approach the competencies, but it’s ultimately a submission about you and should reflect your personality and your career journey.
Applied through: Licentiate APC route
Commended: PCSGain a familiarity and understanding of the competencies early on
- LLB Law - University of Bristol
- MSc International Planning - University College London
At undergraduate level, I studied Law (LLB) at the University of Bristol. It was during the final year of my degree that I gained an interest in planning through studying Environmental, Planning and Land Law. I decided to apply to study International Planning (MSc) at UCL. As I was coming into planning at a later stage in my career, I wanted to study and work in the industry at the same time. After applying to a number of positions, I was lucky enough to secure a 12-month part time work placement at Indigo Planning (now WSP Indigo) whilst I completed my MSc in International Planning at The Bartlett, UCL. Since graduating in September 2017, I have worked at Arup. I began as a Graduate Planner and was promoted to Planner in April 2019.
Arup is a multidisciplinary firm of designers, planners, engineers and technical specialists, offering a range of built environment consultancy services. I work within the Integrated City Planning (ICP) team in London, alongside economists, landscape architects and urban designers. ICP has a range of public and private sector clients across sectors such as infrastructure, housing, education and sporting mega-events. I have worked on a wide range of projects including policy and plan making, development management and strategic planning.
Outside of work, I have organised work experience, hosted events, volunteered, mentored and have held the position of International Representative for RTPI London RAC. I have developed a keen interest in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and planning for climate change, this is something I hope to work more on in the future.
- Gain a familiarity and understanding of the competencies early on – I found that it was easier to write up and identify areas of my work which related to an APC competency as it happened, rather than trying to review my work retrospectively. I would recommend gaining a detailed understanding of the competencies early on and noting down any areas of your work which relate to a competency when you finish a project or hit a milestone. This continual reflection allows you to remember things in more detail which makes writing your case studies much easier later on!
- Create a realistic programme and give yourself goals to meet - Once you have chosen your submission date, work backwards and create a realistic programme to draft each section of the APC. Set goals and incentives to stick to the programme such as review meetings with your mentor.
- Work with others - There is a lot of work to do so it is good to have some social support! Working with other colleagues who are submitting or with planners from other companies is a great way to gain motivation and further reflection on your work. I would recommend asking someone to review your submission who has not worked with you as they will come from an objective perspective and will not be familiar with any of your projects.
- Get started and get snacks – I found starting the APC process really daunting as there seemed so much to do! I can really recommend getting started early on, starting out with small tasks to make everything seem more manageable – and also making sure you have a good stock of snacks.