Heather Cheesbrough, director of planning and strategic transport at Croydon Council, tells us about the diversity of the borough, the varied workload and the career opportunities on offer.
An aerial view of Croydon
Heather, tell me about Croydon Council and the work your team does
Croydon Council is a fantastic place to work, especially the planning and strategic transport division, which is well-respected and recognised as having a vital role in delivering growth and regeneration. We’re involved in a wide range of corporate work, our politicians are well informed on planning matters and our communities care passionately about their environment. Our team is growing from strength to strength despite the council’s historical financial challenges.
What excites you about your role?
I love the variety, the responsibility to bring about change to people’s lives, to protect what is good, and the opportunity to change what is bad. I enjoy the challenge of working with people with so many different views and agendas. Planning can and does change the world - sometimes it takes longer than anticipated, but when it all comes together and a new piece of town is created, or an asset safeguarded, it is just a joy.
How would you describe the team culture?
The passion, dedication, absolute professionalism and commitment is second to none. Everyone wants to deliver quality placemaking, always striving to go the extra mile and make a positive difference to our communities and business. We all have a tremendous amount of respect for one another and believe in what we are doing.
Heather Cheesbrough, director of planning and strategic transport, Croydon Council
We also have a laugh and regular social and training events, so for last year’s World Town Planning Day we had a planning team bake-off and the winner was a cheese and herb ‘Sconehenge’ submitted by the conservation officer. An ambitious runner up was a ‘Chocolate Croydon Flyover’. This year, I won’t be caught napping and my icing bags are at the ready.
Tell me about Croydon as an area to live and work
Croydon is a city of extremes, big and little, tall and small, green and urban, old and new. We have 16th century Almshouses bang up against the Whitgift Centre and 25-storey tower blocks next to Victorian terraces. We have the tallest modular tower in the world and a former cow shed buried in the Crystal Place triangle.
Right now, the skyline is a riot of cranes, with hoardings hiding whole blocks and street art bringing colour and fun. There is so much energy, attitude and belief. We also have well established neighbourhoods and many conservation areas, with some fine listed buildings including some characterful art deco, with a special mention for our graceful lido diving board, currently stranded in a Purley Way retail park!
What does flexible working look like for your team and what plans do you have to return to the office?
People are in and out of the office depending on preference and need. Flexible working has always been possible and as an organisation we continue to evolve, working with our staff to ensure that we deliver as an organisation and that staff have a good work/life balance.
Are you recruiting at the moment?
We have a range of roles across our planning teams in response to the increase in planning applications and to create greater stability by moving away from agency staff to permanent positions. We would love to hear from experienced enforcement officers who relish a varied workload, are tenacious and are committed to using all the enforcement tools as necessary to get a positive outcome.
We also have deputy team leader posts, which provide a great opportunity for moving into management, principal planner posts for those who want to focus on complex and big applications, senior planner posts for those who can grapple with a wide variety of cases, including the potential to really stretch on some major schemes, and planners, with opportunities for those just starting out and those with more experience. It’s a really supportive environment with good training and development opportunities.
What does it take to be a successful planning professional at Croydon?
A desire to produce quality work, to collaborate, take responsibility and a willingness to contribute ideas and views whatever your job. Everyone has a vital role to play in delivering our planning service and we can only do this when we all work together.
In a nutshell, what makes Croydon such a great place to work?
The people, the place, the passion.
Thank you, Heather - sounds like a solid team that is going places!
Want to join the well-respected planning team at Croydon and help deliver growth and regeneration in the area? Check out their current vacancies here.
Croydon Council is currently recruiting for the following roles: