Marilyn Smith studied environmental studies then environmental planning at Nottingham University. Her first job was as minerals planning officer at the London Borough of Hillingdon where she stayed for four years before working as a strategic planner in the municipality of Leichardt in Sydney. Back in England, Smith worked in the multidisciplinary Hounslow town centre team before moving into development management. She is now head of development management and enforcement at the London Borough of Hounslow.
Q What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
I need to make sure I have a team to deliver the regeneration of the borough. The council has a number of corporate regeneration objectives that I need to guide through the planning system, as well as the general planning applications that are the bread and butter of a local authority. Objectives are measured by delivering corporate schemes through the planning system within set time limits. Performance of the team is measured against indicators of speed of decision making set out by government.
Q What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil these objectives?
A. Patience and vision are crucial in local authority. There are always conflicting priorities from politicians, developers and residents and being able to work towards long-term goals rather than fighting for every issue is a lesson to be learned for achieving objectives.
Follow up and keep learning. Don’t feel the job is done once work has started on a development. I often return to developments once competed and occupied to see how the transition from plan to place worked out because there is always room to learn more and see what works and what doesn’t.
Team working works. The main way of delivering planning objectives is to have a highly motivated and well structured team of planners - if people are not enjoying their work, they will not deliver.