How do they do it? Alasdair Morrison

Written by: Colin Marrs
Published on: 26 Jun 2014

Alasdair Morrison, GVA James Barr

Alasdair Morrison has worked for GVA James Barr’s planning team since 2006. Prior to that he worked for Roger Tym & Partners (now Peter Brett) in Glasgow and had numerous roles in local government planning and regeneration teams including a three-year spell as head of city development at City of York Council.

Morrison has worked as planning advisor on a number of large scale mixed-use development projects over the years, including the extension to the Buchanan Galleries Shopping Centre, the new dual city centre campuses for City of Glasgow College and Land Securities 185 Buchanan Street project.

He was a member of the Scottish Government’s external advisory group on town centres in 2013 and has advised the government on development delivery and models similar to the community infrastructure levy in Scotland. 

He also sits on the Parliamentary cross party working group on town centres.

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

In any commercial consultancy, business generation is a key aspect of performance. Beyond this it is about developing relationships with clients and ensuring that they are comfortable in seeking commercial planning advice from you on a recurring basis. A significant aspect of this is consistently meeting client objectives. In recent times at GVA James Barr we have employed more graduates and the more senior members of the team have a key role in their development. Their positive feedback is one of our main objectives. Our firm operates annual appraisals for all staff, reviewed twice yearly, which set out both business and personal targets.   

Q: What key lessons have you learnt during your career that has helped you fulfill those objectives?

Make sure you have a clear understanding of client objectives. With this in mind, developing a planning strategy becomes an easier task.  All actions and reactions that follow as a result of implementing the strategy can then be tracked back to that initial clarity of objective. This is essential in all projects, but particularly on complex development proposals with large teams of consultants involved. This level of understanding allows the strategy to be clearly communicated and the process of stakeholder engagement straightforward.

Consistently keeping abreast of best practice. If you stand still you tend to go backwards. Knowledge management is increasingly important in the current context. This is more than having access to the relevant information and evidence. It is about understanding how to use the significant amounts of information that emerges daily on planning matters and distilling that to make the strongest case for the proposal in hand. The job is a constant learning curve and every day is different.     

Treat others as you would want to be treated. Regardless of the context or who you are dealing with - from a request for advice from a colleague to a telephone call from a prospective objector to a planning application to heads of planning, to leaders of councils -  treat everybody with the respect you would hope to receive. Even in the heat of a debate at a public event or under cross examination at a public inquiry, being respectful bears fruit. After all the planning fraternity is a small one.