How do they do it: Jonathan Bore

Written by: Susie Sell
Published on: 23 Jun 2014

Jonathan Bore

Jonathan Bore is the executive director for planning and borough development at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea - the country’s wealthiest borough, and one of the most densely built areas of the capital. He is a member of the management of council’s management board, and the joint management team with Hammersmith and Fulham. Alongside these roles he heads a department covering planning, development management, policy, conservation, building control and land charges.    

Bore was previously director of planning at consultancy Urban Initiatives and also worked at the Planning Inspectorate as a planning inspector and head of policy, quality and training.

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

In terms of my department, I would see my role as building an excellent department that provides a really high-quality planning service, and deals with people fairly and with integrity. [Also] delivering the council’s stated policies and objectives, sensible and effective policies and contributing to our corporate objectives.

[In terms of being measured against those objectives] we have a number of internal criteria to look at the delivery of projects. There are a number of projects I’m overseeing, including the very substantial redevelopment of Earl’s Court, and we have a number of internal objectives that measure progress against those projects. Equally, we have objectives for things like the speed of turnaround of planning applications.

Q: What key lessons have you learnt during your career that has helped you fulfil those objectives?

A: Always challenge the accepted wisdom and established procedure. You have to look at the bigger picture, and you have got to think fairly. Are your procedures and decisions purely perpetuating the bureaucratic process, or are they there in order to deliver fair decisions that everyone can understand? In planning there is always going to be losers. The key thing is to be absolutely fair and as consistent as you can.

Communicate clearly and be firmly professional. You have got to be very firm in the way you communicate and very clear - writing and verbally. That means cutting out all the awful usual standard planning speak that everyone slips into. You have to get out of that and go right back to plain English.

In the political and public arena you always have people saying, “Ah yes, but if only we just do this, or just do that”, and you attract criticism for “not doing what we want”. But actually if there a very firm, clear professional common sense reasons not to do that, then you have to articulate them. Eventually, people will respect you for your fairness and clarity of view.

Build teams and networks: You can’t really achieve much by yourself. When you are in a managerial position you have to project your own vision, mindset and ethos onto a department and you have to have a clear idea of what you want your department to be like and look like and how you want to behave. You have to recruit very carefully and you have got to bring people to your point of view. And that takes a while. You also have to empathise with people. Leadership doesn’t mean authoritarianism. You have to listen and learn. Be good to your staff because you need each other. It’s no good losing their trust.