Tower Hamlets: Working for “the best of London” in one borough

Written by: Jennifer Jackson
Published on: 20 Nov 2019

Tower Hamlets logo

Paul Buckenham, development manager at Tower Hamlets Council, describes what it’s like to work there, the team culture and town planning job vacancies.

Waterside development
A new development in London Docklands 

Tower Hamlets is one of London’s smallest yet most diverse boroughs. Home to some well-known places and landmarks, it has the Tower of London, Canary Wharf, parts of the 2012 Olympic Park, historic riverfront at Wapping and vibrant places like Brick Lane, Shoreditch and Whitechapel - all in just eight square miles. 

“You could say we have the best of London in one borough” enthuses Paul Buckenham, development manager at Tower Hamlets Council. So what is it like to work there? We spoke to him for insider insight into the team culture and planning job opportunities on offer.

Paul, tell me about Tower Hamlets Council - what is your vision and mission?

Tower Hamlets is growing and changing quickly, probably more so than most parts of London. We have the second highest target for housing in the draft London Plan and potential to generate thousands of new jobs.

Our objective in the planning service is to help the council manage that growth and deliver regeneration in a way that’s sustainable and ensure the benefits are shared by all of our communities.

Last year we completed the largest number of affordable homes, at 566, making up 30% of the total homes delivered, and we have just over 5,000 more affordable homes in the planning pipeline.

Hanbury Street - new homes Tower Hamlets
Award-winning new council homes (artist’s impression) © PRP Architects

Apply for a planning job at Tower Hamlets Council

Why would someone want to work in the planning team?

It’s an exciting time to join the planning team at Tower Hamlets. Our new Local Plan and Community Infrastructure Levy have been examined and are heading towards adoption in early 2020. There’s lots of work to do on area action plans, masterplans and supplementary planning documents to make sure we have all the tools in place to manage development effectively, now and into the future. 

There’s also a host of major development sites coming forward including Wood Wharf, Bishopsgate Goods Yard and an ambitious programme to have 2,000 new council homes in delivery by 2022.

What is the team culture like?

Our team culture is dynamic and supportive. We encourage creative thinking, collaboration and ideas for doing things differently. The focus is very much about outcomes, making a difference for our residents and providing great customer service. Whether you’re taking the first steps in your planning career or at a more senior level, you will find plenty of support from your team and your manager at Tower Hamlets.

What is the area of Tower Hamlets like as a place to live and work?

Tower Hamlets is already very well connected with the tube, DLR, London 
Overground and bus network. Crossrail will be arriving in the next couple of years, with two brand new stations in Tower Hamlets. This means we attract staff who live across London and beyond. Some of our staff live in Tower Hamlets and love the diversity and vibrancy of the historic east end whilst being so close to central London.

The Tower Hamlets Council planning team visits the new Crossrail station under construction in Whitechapel 

Tower Hamlets is a great place to work - we have a modern workplace and
encourage flexible working to help support a good work/life balance. We’re investing in ICT and looking at how digital technology can improve our services and the way we work. For example, in 2020 our development management service will be virtually paperless.

One of the exciting changes on the horizon will be the council’s move to new offices on the site of the former Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel in 2022. The project will breathe new life into this impressive listed building with a combination of refurbishment of the listed buildings and new extensions. Our new town hall will be very much at the heart of our community.

Tower Hamlets town hall

Tower Hamlets’ new town hall at Whitechapel © AHMM Architects

What roles are you recruiting for and what do they involve?

We’re currently recruiting for roles in our plan making and development
management teams.
 We have graduate planner roles suitable for those who have a first degree and would like to study for a planning qualification whilst working. Graduate planners will have the opportunity to work in plan making, development management and compliance.

Career grade planner roles are suitable for enthusiastic qualified planners and are structured to allow you to progress to a more senior position as you gain experience.

Canary Wharf
The cluster of tall buildings at Canary Wharf

There are also vacancies in our development management and plan making (policy) teams. We’re seeking applications for all three levels of the career grade.

Principal planners will be working on some of the most complex and high profile planning applications in London. A combination of good technical, interpersonal and project management skills will be important at this level.

There is also a service development officer position - a key role that helps to ensure we are providing a top quality development management service, by focusing on our pre-application offer, our use of planning performance agreements and co-ordinating improvement projects.

What career development opportunities do you offer?

We offer lots of opportunities to develop your planning career at Tower Hamlets. Whether you want to strengthen your professional planning skills or take your career in a managerial direction, we will help you put together a personal development plan which might include on-the-job training, studying for a qualification, a secondment to gain experience of working in a different team or peer-to-peer coaching.

Historic spitalfields

Historic Spitalfields

Sum up what you think makes a ‘wonderful workplace’

Flexible and supportive working along with a friendly and rewarding working
environment are the ingredients that are helping to create a ‘wonderful workplace’ at Tower Hamlets Council. We believe in celebrating our success and offer an approach to health and wellbeing that enables our employees to thrive, be productive and most of all enjoy making a difference!

Find out more and apply for a planning job at Tower Hamlets Council