Chris France graduated in geography and landscape studies before taking a postgraduate town planning diploma at Bristol Polytechnic in the mid 1980s while working for Weymouth & Portland Borough Council. He joined Exmoor National Park in 1987 and stayed for 19 years before moving to Dartmoor National Park. Five years ago he moved back to his native county to become director of planning at North York Moors National Park Authority.
Q. What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
I manage a team of 20 planning staff and help prepare our local plan and deal with planning applications – as an average sized national park we receive 700 to 800 a year - and development management. The last four of my five years here have been dominated by the York Potash mine application – the biggest industrial application facing any national park. We have monthly staff appraisal and there is an element of performance-related pay based on speed of decisions and customer satisfaction.
Q. What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?
A. Have the courage of your convictions. Planning has become so politicised that some of its key objectives have become lost, so you have to go with your gut instinct and never be afraid to say no if something looks or feels inherently wrong.
Work hard to establish a strong team. Teamwork is essential and helps you achieve better results – I'm fortunate to have a passionate, brilliant planning team, which makes my job easier and more enjoyable.
Look after your board members. The quality of their planning decisions depend on a good, two-way working relationship with the planners, mutual respect and understanding.