How do they do it?: Gilian Macinnes, Planning Advisory Service

Written by: Jim Dunton
Published on: 27 Feb 2014

Gilian MacinnesGilian Macinnes held a range of local authority planning roles before becoming principal consultant at the Planning Advisory Service in 2008.

She began her town planning career at Crawley Borough Council in 1986, and worked at Reigate & Banstead Borough Council and Maidstone Borough Council before becoming head of planning at Sevenoaks District Council.

At the Planning Advisory Service (PAS), Macinnes currently specialises in work relating to viability and the Community Infrastructure Levy, organising seminars and conferences as well as updating the service’s website with information on those areas.

Q: What do you like about your current role?

A: I have always enjoyed the challenge of helping local planning services improve and having the opportunity to contribute to the development of policy. It is also good to have insight on what the development industry is doing.

Q: How is your performance judged?

A: Having spent most of my working life at councils, where targets are very clear, my role at the Planning Advisory Service is very much more aligned to feedback from events. That said, we are overseen by a board that needs to be satisfied that we are delivering for the sector, and we are funded by Department for Communities and Local Government.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting out on their career in the profession?

1) Take opportunities to broaden your knowledge outside of the office. It could be attending conferences, meeting different organisations, developers or builders, or anyone involved in the sector who is looking at things from a different perspective. It’s really important see what other people are doing, rather than just fire-fighting with day-to-day demands.

2) Always give your view as a professional planner and have the integrity to be unpopular because of it. It might be that councilors don’t want to pay attention to the National Planning Policy Framework, or that they don’t have the evidence to back up their decision. It’s always better to give the best planning advice that you can;

3) Pass on your skills and help develop the profession for the next generation. I’ve spent a lot of my career managing teams of planners and I’ve always really appreciated the extent to which people work with newer team members to help develop their skills. Over the past few years there have been reductions in the number of people doing particular roles, meaning that there’s less time to do this, but it is still important.