Matt Thomson, formerly head of policy and practice at the Royal Town Planning Institute, returned to the sector in July after a three year sabbatical to complete a PhD in Planning at Oxford Brookes University. His new is head of policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Q. What are your objectives in your job and how are you measured on them?
A. The main part of what I am expected to achieve is to influence national and local planning and transport policy. In addition, my team and I have wider objectives to work towards the CPRE’s aim of working protect, promote and enhance our towns and countryside to make them better places to live, work and enjoy.
The obvious tool for me to influence policy is through formal consultations. However, it is also about positive engagement with other organisations in the planning and development sector. We have engagement with developers as well as with conservation interest groups.
I am getting to grips with the assessment process and haven’t been through the whole cycle yet, but we do have formal objectives that are driven by the corporate plan. Individuals and the team have particular objectives to meet, which are quite formal although there is a recognition that these need to be flexible and respond to changing priorities. Progress is monitored through a standard annual review process.
Q. What are the three key lessons you have learnt in your career?
A. Countryside protection is an urban opportunity. Having a high quality countryside is also about having high quality urban environments – you can’t have one without the other
2. Make the best uses of people’s passions. This is something I have found in local government and charity – people are motivated by belief systems – the public service ethos or a passion for the countryside. This helps them reach a high standard of work.
3. A problem shared is a problem halved. Working with limited resources as you have to in the public and voluntary sector there are lots of interesting alliance you can make with others to help deliver your objectives – these are often groups with similar interests, such as wildlife and countryside bodies, but we also work with people in the development industry to get a balanced approach to a particular issue.