The RTPI’s Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative pairs up a chief planner with someone early on in their career for a day of shadowing, to see what it’s like to be a chief planner. New applications open on 7 March so keep an eye on our webpage.
To give you an idea of what to expect from the scheme we asked Rob Krzyszowski, a Chief Planner at Haringey Council, about his experiences of hosting a gradate planner for the day.
Who did I host?
I hosted Jess Jones, a graduate planner at Arup Liverpool for the day at my offices at the London Borough of Haringey in north London.
What preparation was needed before the day?
The RTPI were helpful in making arrangements for the day. Jess and I had a Microsoft Teams meeting a few weeks in advance to get to know each other, and also to hear about her experience and interests. This was really valuable as it helped me tailor the day to include some of her interests and areas she wanted to develop, and also to sort out logistics and answer any questions she had in advance.
What was the day like?
I picked a day that would give a good cross-section of a typical day for me, and that would best demonstrate the variety of work that chief planners do.
In the morning we had an introductory 1-1 to look at the day’s meetings ahead to give a heads up on the issues we would be dealing with.
The first meeting was my Senior Management Team meeting which I chair. It gave Jess a chance to directly meet my heads of service including the Head of Development Management & Enforcement and the Head of Planning Policy. Chief Planners often have other services beyond just planning included in their portfolio which meant that Jess also met the Head of Building Control and Head of Carbon Management in the meeting who are just as much part of the services that I manage.
It was great for Jess to see that being a chief planner is also very much about a team approach and that the planning services are very closely intertwined with other services and it’s really important that we work closely together. The meeting also provided a feel for how planning services play a corporate role across the council and that chief planners play an important leadership role in this.
Because Jess had expressed an interest in climate change, I arranged a meeting for her with our Climate Change Manager to talk about how we set carbon and energy standards for new developments through the Local Plan and planning applications, but also the wider work that the Climate Change Team does.
We also had a meeting with our regional planning body, the Greater London Authority, to discuss the emerging new London Plan and issues of conformity of our emerging new Local Plan. This meant Jess got to meet members of our Planning Policy Team and also see their role and that of the chief planner in maintaining a good working relationship with key statutory bodies.
Any chief planner will know that a key part of the job is Planning Committee where the decisions on major planning applications take place in a public forum. I made sure Jess had the agenda and papers to attend this meeting with me and talked her through how the meeting works. It meant she got to hear direct from objectors and supporters of the proposals, how planning officers balance the material considerations arising, how we advise elected Councillors, and how those Councillors come to their own judgement on the relevant considerations and make a decision.
It’s really important that the chief planners of tomorrow understand the fine balance between technical planning matters and the politics of planning, and the importance of having a good and professional working relationship with elected Councillors. It’s also important they hear directly from local residents and developers so that they understand where real-life genuine concerns with development come from and how the planning system deals with them.
Although it was a long day with an evening meeting and late finish, that’s typical of a chief planner’s job! It’s worth fitting as much as possible in the day to get the most out of the experience.
Why should Chief Planners take part?
I highly recommend taking part in this. It’s important we keep a good pipeline of people that want to be planners and chief planners to keep on championing the role of planning and provide great planning services.
It’s a great experience for the chief planner to be asked questions on the job, and helps you reflect yourself on why we do things in a certain way. It also helps you reflect on how we can support our own staff in developing their experience and advancing through their career.
Why should graduates / planners take part?
Signing up for this guarantees that you will have an interesting and stretching day, away from the day job, that widens your horizon and gives you chance to meet a whole variety of people and ask lots of questions. You’ll be welcomed and made to feel part of the team for the day. Sign up now!