Atkins' director of cities and urbanism, Paj Valley, is a chartered member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Landscape Institute (LI). He trained in landscape planning and design at Manchester Metropolitan University in the early 1990s and was an associate director at consultancy Lovejoy until 2005 when he joined Scott Wilson as a technical and design director. Valley joined Atkins at the start of 2011.
Q. What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
My objective is to take a strategic view of the challenges cities and towns are facing through infrastructure, regeneration and development and housing needs. This involves working with other planners and disciplines such as engineers, architects and environmentalists. We have several performance measures including team meetings and technical reviews. We also benchmark and assess progress at every level: from high-level company strategy to project-focused aspects, and not just commercial and time-line areas but the manner in which we work, including issues of company ethos.
Q. What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?
A. Be brave with your planning decisions. Never be shy of telling your client the true aspect of what you face with a project rather than just nodding and telling them what they want to hear.
Don't use economical constraints as an excuse for not delivering a good end result. Some people say innovation can be a costly add-on, but true innovation in your thinking in planning or design can be delivered with the most economical budget.
Interdisciplinary working broadens professional horizons. There are two sides to every coin and it's always good to have another perspective – this is better than taking a silo approach to work.