Jo Negrini, executive director of development and environment at Croydon Council, is responsible for delivering inclusive and sustainable growth in the borough. She was previously the London Borough of Newham's director of strategic regeneration, planning and Olympic legacy.
Q: What are your objectives in your current role?
A: I’m responsible for everything from the driving of growth through the planning function, to delivery of growth through the regeneration function and the managing of the growth with the environment function. I am responsible for major regeneration right through to making sure people’s bins are collected. The objective is about delivering inclusive and sustainable growth.
Q: How are you measured against these objectives?
A: In terms of the housing targets, my role and my department’s function is to make sure that with council initiatives and external partners we deliver 9,500 new homes over the next five years. So there are quantifiable indicators. But we are also measured in terms of customer satisfaction. This is about resident satisfaction with the way we deliver our services to them, and about partner satisfaction in terms of how good a partner we are in enabling things to happen in the borough.
Q: What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfill these objectives?
A: Be flexible and think laterally: I have got so much out of my career because, for me, planning is a tool to do incredible things in cities, to create great places. I think you need to be aspirational in terms of your interface with planning. It is there to help; it’s not there to stop things from happening. You need to have a very positive approach to it and think flexibly around it.
Relationships are important: When a developer has an idea that they are pitching to you in pre-application discussion, don’t keep referring to the core strategy. You know what that policy says. What do you think about that scheme? Do you think that’s the right scheme in this place? You develop a relationship by giving a little bit of yourself, your personality and what you think about things, in addition to what the line is on what kind of development we want to see.
Be open to new ideas: It is fantastic having a career that has spanned everything from working with unemployed people, right through to collecting bins and leading regeneration in probably the biggest growth area in London. You try to take things from all of those different disciplines and you can use them in different ways. You have got to be absolutely open to new ideas because sometimes you get too locked into ways of doing things.
Have fun: There is a great quote I read: cities should surprise and delight. I think that’s absolutely right. Part of our job in terms of the regeneration and development of Croydon is to introduce that surprise and delight. It’s about looking at what we can do in the short-term to animate, how can we enliven things, how can we support people who want to do different types of things, how do we look to do interim uses on sites that people actually walk around the corner and go, “Wow, I didn’t expect to see that in Croydon.”