How I got here

Written by: Naomi Harnett
Published on: 9 Dec 2013

Having completed a BSc (Hons) in Rural Resource Management at Plymouth University, I started my career as a Development Management Planning Officer at Torbay Council, later moving to Teignbridge District Council.  The initial years of my planning career provided a strong grounding in processing a wide variety of planning applications - from minor householder extensions and new commercial buildings through to small housing estates.  I also gained valuable experience of planning appeals, including major public inquiries.  

Alongside my work, I studied for an MA in Town and Country Planning at the University of the West of England. Two years after completion, I was seconded from the Planning Department to the Economy and Regeneration Team. It was a move which afforded me the chance to specialise in planning for economic development.  

The position allowed me to develop town centre regeneration policies and the Council’s economic development plan.  Within this role, I utilised my planning application experience to help develop working practices, improve the experience of the planning process for developers and businesses wanting to develop new commercial space.  During this time, I developed effective engagement with the business sector and gained an understanding of the difference between their need and those of householders and house builders.

I joined the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point as a Project Manager in September.  This role is an excellent match for my  skill set because Growth Point are responsible for developing homes and jobs in the Exeter area. Projects include a new Science Park, next generation of Business Park, low carbon Energy Centre, heat from waste plant, an Intermodal Freight Terminal and a number of new housing developments. The role has already brought me into contact with developers, local businesses and the Heart of the South West Enterprise Partnership (LEP).    

If, like me, you want to become a project manager within a planning department, here are a few nuggets of advice:

•    There are many ways to starting your career in planning, from starting as a school leaver as a planning technician to graduate entry.  However, to become a chartered town planner you will need to gain a Masters which is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute.  

•    There are many planning jobs available, both within the public and private sector.  Opportunities to specialise in Project Management are less common, but planners with this skill set are sought after and can get involved in exciting development projects.  

•    Take training opportunities in project management, such as PRINCE 2.  

•    Take all opportunities to gain experience.  Local Authorities and private sector consultancies offer work experience placements and work placements to those interested in pursuing a career in planning.