How do they do it? Aedan Smith

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 16 Mar 2015

Aedan Smith

RSPB Scotland head of planning and development Aedan Smith graduated with a postgraduate diploma in planning from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and did work-experience at engineering consultancy Halcrow before joining the company as a graduate planner. He joined Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park in development control before heading east to RSPB Scotland in Edinburgh where he was a senior planner. He has been head of planning for six years. 

Q. What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?

I head up our planning team of six and work with developers to ensure their plans are not harmful to birds or other wildlife. If they don't take our advice it may lead to appeals. A big chunk of my work is at a national level, working with government ministers on issues such as national planning policies. I also work with non-governmental organisations and find more of my work involves dealing with energy such as wind farms. The RSPB has an internal report system measuring several things such as looking at how successful we have been at protecting designated areas. We tackle between 300 and 400 planning cases a year and are monitored on how effective we have been on stopping damage happening.

Q. What key lessons have you learnt during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?

A. Understand ecology and environmental issues. The profession is weakened without this knowledge base, so being aware of the issues can help you and the profession.

Get involved in issues outside of the statutory town-planning system. Building development doesn't operate in isolation and the built environment influences only a small part of space. Marine, agriculture and forestry environments are hardly touched by the planning system yet have a big impact on our lives. It helps to take in the bigger picture.

Try and take a global perspective. It can be a challenge at a local level, but planning professionals can learn a lot from international examples and gain from knowledge transfer.