How do they do it? Noel Rutherford

Written by: Colin Marrs
Published on: 24 Jun 2014

Noel Rutherford Ealing Council

Noel Rutherford started his career as a trainee building surveyor and became a chartered engineer. He joined the London Borough of Ealing in his twenties and still lives in the borough.

His current role incorporates all the surveying and building control activity of the council, including planning and transport and working on regeneration projects.

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

We have a formal appraisal process with an annual appraisal and reviews every six months. I have certain key objectives as an individual which are very broad. Planning needs to be an efficient machine, and there are objective measures such as the number of planning applications processed and the number of appeals we win.

Those things can be measured with my science head on. However, there are subjective measures which are equally important such as “Have we made this place better by our actions?” These are probably for the politicians here to judge. The fact I’m still employed here tells me I must be doing something right!

The strategic objectives in my current role are about ensuring the planning process is enabling development that meets the needs of our growing and changing population without losing the essence of the place. One key objective is providing homes for our growing population delivered in adequate numbers and genuinely affordable. Also, ensuring Crossrail does not turn us into a dormitory town means making sure we have jobs as well as homes being created in significant numbers to ensure the local economy continues to grow. Getting more people walking and cycling and delivering infrastructure to make that a reality is also a key part of protecting Ealing’s character.

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

Coming from a non-planning background I have learnt that planning is not as easy as it looks to outsiders.

Much as we all think we could do a better job than the England football manager, in reality you do need some expertise to do a good job.

The key is to let people be part of the bigger solutions and I do think neighbourhood planning is valuable as a conduit for making better places. Planners can bring the expertise but the heart of a community comes from the people input to process. Mix the two together well and you have cocktail for successful planning.