How do they do it? Stuart Mearns

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 8 Jul 2015

Stuart MearnsStuart Mearns graduated in planning at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, part of which involved a placement at Highland Council, which then took him on as a graduate planner after he gained his BA degree. Four years later he took off to New Zealand to practise for two years before returning to work for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, where he rose to team leader. Six years ago he joined Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and last November became its head of planning and rural development.

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

I'm in charge of 26 staff and oversee planning applications, enforcement and preparation of a local development plan. We also do a lot of community work such as helping locals launch small hydro-power schemes. The national park has iconic landscapes but we have to balance the need for development, especially affordable housing, in our town towns and villages. We have a board that oversees our work while an annual report demonstrates if we have delivered against our business priorities. Our park management plan is signed off by the government and performance is assessed against that.

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

A. Put yourself in other people's shoes. In dealing with a problem you need to think from the perspective of the person raising it: it helps you understand what to do better and faster.

Enjoy what you do. The more you enjoy what you do the more creative you will become at communicating what you do and finding fresh solutions.

Make things happen. Communities want to see stuff happen – it proves to them we don't just work as bureaucrats and administrators.