North Northamptonshire covers the local authorities of Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough and the joint planning unit provides strategic planning and urban design advice to the partner authorities.
Unit head Andrew Longley graduated in geography at Sheffield University and joined Waverley Council where he undertook a three-year MA in town planning.
He joined Kettering Borough Council after 13 years at Waverley and in 2004 joined the joint planning unit. This was set up in response to the Milton Keynes and South Midlands growth area proposals, which acknowledged that growing demand would have major cross-boundary ramifications.
Q. What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
My role is to maintain an effective joint planning unit to support a growth agenda that is as much about quality as the number of new homes. My immediate priority is to get our core strategy through examination later this year. I am measured through a formal reporting process to my director, but on a day-to-day basis I report each month to a steering group of chief planning officers from the four boroughs and the county council, who give me direction on a programme of priorities and also the resources to keep the show on the road.
Q. What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?
A. Value partnership working. The ability to pool skills and resources to ensure you are doing strategic planning at an appropriate spatial scale is so important, especially at a time of tight budgets and to meet demands on the duty to cooperate.
Taking an outward-looking approach helps. Seeking best practice from elsewhere and securing commitment and funding from external sources makes life easier. Statutory agencies such as the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment have been very supportive.
Make sure you have a skilled, motivated team. This will ensure commitment to long-term projects. Authorities have tough decisions on how to spend money, so providing a stimulating working environment and offering professional development opportunities will keep the workplace enjoyable.