How do they do it? Peter Geraghty

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 15 Dec 2014

Peter Geraghty

Peter Geraghty has more than 25 years' experience of planning in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The former president of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) currently heads planning at Southend on Sea, which won development management team of the year at last month's Planning Awards. As chief planning officer for Brentwood Borough Council and head of planning and conservation at Broadland District Council he worked on large planning applications including housing, transportation, industrial, retail and regeneration schemes. He is also a former volunteer and director for Planning Aid for London and is a graduate of the University of Liverpool from where he received a PhD and a masters degree. 

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

Transport and planning are among the most challenging services, as they shape public of the authority, so my job is to ensure high performance and try to help the department exceed targets set by government. I have to attract inward investment and support regeneration. I am measured monthly on a one-to-one basis with the director. I also have an annual appraisal and six-monthly review on targets set in April. We have a performance-improvement task force, which is like a mini select committee, where you can be summoned to explain, explore or account for your performance in front of the chief executive and others. 

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

A. Trust your judgement and instinct. I learned as a young graduate and try to impart this advice to today's younger planners: it is often your first impression that is the right one – it rarely lets you down.

Your role is not just about being a good professional but understanding the political context. Planning is the exercise of professional judgement in a political context  – especially in local authority but also the private sector – and you have to look at how your role effects the perception of what you do and the judgements you make.

Never give up and never give in. This is a difficult specialism to practice and the going can get tough, but it's important to hold on to the idea that you are here to make people's lives better.