How do they do it? Elle Cass

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 1 May 2015

Elle Cass

JLL director of planning and development Elle Cass has a masters degree in regional planning from Sheffield University. She started her planning career at Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council before she joined consultancy Les Stephan Planning. In 2008 she joined David Wilson Homes in Wolverhampton as planning and strategic land manager for the west Midlands. Four years later Cass moved to King Sturge, which merged with JLL in 2011.

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

A. Our small team is based in Birmingham and I work with fellow national director Peter Leaver, making sure everybody generates work themselves. This is a very client-facing practice; we make sure planners see each job through from start to finish, ensuring no one gets pigeon-holed in one area, such as residential work. My key areas are extra-care and special-needs work and tourism and leisure so one day I'm on the Isle of Wight and the other way up north in the Lake District. I have a big appraisal every year and everyone is measured on financial targets, client satisfaction, business generation and how many courses we've been on to keep up to date. We are all measured on the same basis, from graduate to international director, and it's transparent so everyone one knows each other's targets.

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

A. Planning isn't just about policy. It's about building trusting relationships with people, which is as important as policy-compliance, so everyone knows you will deliver what you've promised. 

Understanding the market is key to delivering development. More needs to be taught in schools and university about the impact of development on our economy: we have a massive shortage of housing delivery yet people object to new homes. This has a huge impact on growth and our future, and everybody needs to understand that.

You must be passionate about the proposals you come up with. Without that passion and belief in the wider benefits of what you do, you are less likely to be successful.