Bob May is a director of Turley and the head of its expert witness services. Having studied at Manchester University he remains an advisor on course content and delivery at Manchester as well as Sheffield University. He started his professional career in local government, working for Rossendale and Trafford councils in local planning and development control. For the last 20 years he has been a consultant, based in Manchester and Leeds, and now works throughout England.
What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
At Turley I head up our expert witness service of about 30 practitioners, who regularly take part in inquires, examinations and hearings. My own main areas of work are in criminal proceedings, contract disputes and professional negligence claims. Very often this involves looking at advice given by others in the past and providing a view on whether it was reasonable, accurate and appropriate at the time it was given. We have a continual process of performance and development review, taking into account feedback from colleagues. As a client-facing business we also seek their views on our performance.
What key lessons have you learned during your career that have helped you to fulfil those objectives?
Continually learn. Almost every successive government has sought to reform the planning system to make it more responsive, quicker and more efficient, added to which planning practice responds to key decisions taken in the courts. You have to remain up to date.
Remain objective. Disputes are inevitable: the planning system is very procedural; inevitably conflicts arise and things go wrong. It can be easy to get drawn into the rights and wrongs of the overall case, but the duty of the expert is to give objective, unbiased opinion.
Read the code. The RTPI has published a guide for members on the code of conduct and ethical considerations. This is the most comprehensive guidance note on the subject to be issued for some time and is helpful reading for all practitioners.