Chartered town planner James Alflatt is a partner at Bidwells and a registered environmental impact assessment (EIA) practitioner. He leads a team of EIA specialists and is responsible for developing the EIA service across the firm. Alflatt holds an MSc in environmental management and before joining Bidwells in 2007 worked at the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk for four years.
What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
My key objective is to deliver our EIA proposition to clients, which involves embedding EIA into the planning process very early on so we can identify risks and then minimise these to save the client money. Since 2010 Bidwells’ EIA team has helped to create 17,000 new jobs, deliver 11,000 new homes and generate around £1.8 billion of capital investment in new development. Performance is measured in several ways, against income and business development targets, personal development and new clients brought into the firm. Externally, our EIA work is audited annually by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment.
Q. What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?
A. Master the ability to communicate at all levels. The importance of good, adaptable communication skills so you can liaise with people at all levels – from local authority planning officers to an opposed neighbour who is worried about what is happening in ‘their backyard’ - is crucial.
Devil is in the detail. Attention to detail is important in EIA so we can minimise the risk of litigation and de-risk by working out a solution, often by scrutinising the smallprint.
Be aware of the commerciality of your client’s business. Have an eye to identify risk early on so you can work with the client to deliver a scheme that is commercially viable.