How do they do it? RSPB's Simon Marsh

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 2 Jun 2014

Simon Marsh

Simon Marsh is head of planning policy at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). He was awarded the MBE in 2013 for his work as a member of the National Planning Policy Framework practitioners’ advisory group; is a member of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) planning sounding board and a member of Lord Matthew Taylor’s review of planning practice guidance. He trained in Sheffield and has worked for Sefton Council and Essex County Council.

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

A I lead a team that seeks to ensure the planning system and planning policy in England is positive for nature. I engage with DCLG and other national stakeholders in the planning system. Like any others we have annual appraisals but we are also measured on the success of delivering outcomes such as the Planning Naturally -Spatial planning with nature in mind: in the UK and beyond produced by the RSPB, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Chartered Institute of Ecology And Environmental Management.

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

A. Always have a learning attitude. When I graduated I thought I knew it all but was just starting out. The context you work in changes all the time – new challenges and goals come along and you have to learn to adapt for those changes. Moving from mainstream planning to working for an environmental NGO is a good example of where I had to adapt.

People skills are just as vital, if not more so, than knowing the technical stuff. You are always working in teams to achieve things within you own organisations and outside so being able to deal with people is crucial.

Don't be afraid to try out new challenges. I worked for 10 years for one authority, but felt I needed new challenges, so stepped out and did something totally different – I worked in Mozambique for two years, which couldn't be more different. It didn't do my career any harm; it stretched my professional skills and fulfilled me culturally.