How do they do it? Mary-Jane O’Neill

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 2 Nov 2015

 Mary-Jane O’NeillThe immediate post-millennium period saw Mary-Jane O’Neill working as a planner on post-Olympic sites in Sydney, Australia before returning to the UK. She then worked at Drivers Jonas for seven years before setting up her own practice Renaissance Planning in London. Last month she joined Signet Planning as a regional director. O’Neill, a geography graduate, did her MSc in planning at Oxford Brookes University before joining GVA Grimley and then taking off to Australia to work for the government's ministry of planning before returning to continue her planning career.

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

My role is to lead on major projects such as housing and regeneration and get them through planning; this involves working up strategies and pre-application issues and looking at research and development for taking big projects forward. Measures include peer reviews and meetings to set goals and look at targets.

What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil these objectives?

A. Never assume what people say is right. No matter how experienced they are, you can't always take everyone's word for it especially as you may end up as a witness at public inquiry.

Teamwork and negotiation are essential. Mediation and getting people on side is so important in your career, so work hard at communication and people skills. 

Keep up with legislation and case law. A decision in the High Court went our way recently, underlining the importance of keeping abreast of all that's happening in planning law.