Chief Planners of Tomorrow

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Planning Service has Learning Partner status with the Royal Town Planning Institute.  This commits us to a programme of continuous training and development to support planning officers, elected members and community groups. 

In 2019, we won the Learning Partner Award for the best programme in the UK.

It is important to provide learning opportunities for young planners.  For the second successive year, our Chief Planning Officer was shadowed as part of a national initiative.

Lucy Sumner MRTPI, from Perth and Kinross Council writes about her experience:

Lucy is the Development Contributions Officer for Perth and Kinross Council, where she took up post earlier this year following her time with Aberdeen City Council’s Local Development Plan team. Lucy is based in Perth and is also involved with the RTPI East of Scotland Chapter. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter, @sumnernotsummer

In what feels like the distant past of 2019, I applied for the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative and I was delighted to be successfully paired with David Leslie at City of Edinburgh Council for the experience in 2020.

The Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative allows a young planner the opportunity to spend some time shadowing a Chief Planner for the day. Usually this would take place in-person, attending meetings and visiting the Council’s offices, however like most things throughout 2020 David and I had to adapt and find alternative ways to share this experience. We were able to benefit from the virtual platform so many of us have become acquainted with this year; allowing us to tailor the programme more naturally to our schedules.

The role of a Chief Planner is very diverse, and David was keen to try and show me as much as possible from his day-to-day tasks over the course of the experience. David and I initially discussed our expectations of the opportunity, and he was then able to prepare a programme covering these key learning areas. These included; Strategic Management Issues, Political Awareness, and Service Planning.

Strategic Management Issues

David introduced me to service managers for Development Management and Development Planning, David Givan and Iain McFarlane. We discussed their roles, their career pathways and some of the key responsibilities involved with their roles. I learned about their experience as managers during a global pandemic, including some of the challenges with working remotely and how this affects day-to-day tasks, performance, and morale.

Political Awareness

After watching one of the Council’s publicly webcast Development Management Sub-Committee meetings, David extended an opportunity to attend the weekly meeting between service managers and the Convenor and Vice-Convenor. I therefore had the pleasure of meeting the Councillors Neil Gardiner and Maureen Child.

As a Planner I have held roles in private sector with a housebuilder and as a consultant, and in public sector as a Council officer, so my interaction with Elected Members has usually revolved around Planning Committees, so this was a hugely valuable experience in seeing how Committee meetings are briefed and prepared for … something like a backstage pass! Observing this meeting helped me understand my own role better too; for example, how certain actions arise ahead of Committees, or why briefing notes are requested. This gave some context as to how things progress and the relationship between management and the Convenors.

Service Planning

David arranged for a discussion about the Service Improvement Plan. Again, as an officer, this was really beneficial to learn about as sometimes you feel as though your role is your job title – but being part of a team, a service, an organisation means you are always part of a wider picture too. It can be quite motivating to work toward an overarching goal in this way and uphold the organisation’s objectives through your own work. I really enjoyed hearing about how the Service nurtures leadership and skills, and the ‘bottom up’ approach in service planning.

The experience has been an interesting insight into the varied duties and responsibilities of a Chief Planner. When David and I met for our concluding meeting at the end of the experience he asked me if I ever wanted to be a Chief Planner – I won’t share my answer here – but we went on to have a nice discussion about our choices in life and reflecting on opportunities and where they’ve led us, which is really encouraging. 

In summary, I feel lucky to have been able to take advantage of the RTPI’s Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative. I feel it is pertinent to me as a young planner progressing in my career, and I don’t think it could have come at a better time during the unprecedented events of 2020; reflecting on other local authority practices and sharing skills and opportunities at a time like this really embodies the spirit of the RTPI, and what I feel we should continue to be promoting as a planning profession.

I hope that the initiative proves equally rewarding to Chief Planners; understanding the needs of young planners within their service right now, or in future, and cultivating leadership potential from their team.

I would like to thank all those I had the opportunity to meet with during this experience for their time and insight. Finally, I extend my sincerest thanks to David Leslie for making this possible, I greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and mentorship through this time.

Chief Planner for the Day

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David Leslie, Lisa Proudfoot, Convener of Planning Councillor Neil Gardiner

This blog is written by Lisa Proudfoot, MRTPI

Stepping into the shoes of the Chief Planner for a day has been a great experience. Led by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland expressed an interest in hosting a young planner for a day as part of a work-shadowing scheme. The aim was to give young planners the chance to learn from the best – those who hold leadership roles in LPAs – to see what it’s like to be ‘at the top table’, the challenges and opportunities they face, and to see first-hand how decisions are made at top level.

I joined David Leslie, Chief Planner at the City of Edinburgh Council for a busy day of learning and observation. From the outset I hoped to see more of the spatial effects of decision making and how different fields and services can work well with each other – be that housing, transport and environment, or more broadly, with the public and private sector. I believe good leadership is important for collaborative working.

In my day to day job, as a Planner with Montagu Evans, I often work with planners within the LPA but my contact with senior management and leaders is often limited. Stepping into the shoes of the Chief Planner for the day has given me the chance to gain an insight into the qualities that make good leaders, an important element in progressing my own planning career.

My day started with an introduction to the service, joined by all service managers, to run through the Council structure – the who’s who. It was then time to head up to the City Chambers for a weekly meeting with the Planning Convenor where we discussed recent workshops held on a number of subjects.  Later I met the current year out students working within the Council who are responsible for arranging the annual Committee site tour. This involved picking out recent developments around a range of topics including sustainability, use of materials and affordable housing.

Later, I was involved in a pre-application project workshop with other services of the Council including case officers and internal consultees. This was a great opportunity to see the challenges faced but also to offer my own thoughts on my experience of using the Service as a customer. I was then involved in a discussion on the Planning Performance Framework, a document to be prepared once a year showing a number of benchmarks and statistics set by the Scottish Government.

Soon enough it was time to head back up to the City Chambers for a briefing, to prepare for the next Development Management Sub-Committee meeting, where we then finished off our day speaking with the planner who acts as Service and Policy Advisor to discuss how officers work with the planning committee.

…a busy day indeed!

I would highly recommend this scheme to other young planners – it is great to see the RTPI and LPAs working to push for good leaders in planning and to provide Chief Planners of the future with these opportunities.

Our recent Scottish Young Planners Conference included a session on “Chief Planners of the Future” where a number of young planners took to the stage to speak about their thoughts on leadership, priorities, deliverability and the future of planning. I think it is important that we keep this moving.

Lisa Proudfoot MRTPI

Planner

#SYPC2017

I have titled this post with a hashtag, as we were asked to promo the event on social media.

Emma’s blog post #4: #SYPC2017

SYPC stands for Scottish Young Planners Conference. The conference consisted of morning lectures with Q&A sessions, and afternoon workshops (and then drinks after). The whole day was geared around giving young planners the skills they need to be successful.

The first talk was given by Kevin Stewart MSP, titled “People, Places and Planning: skills and the planning review”. The Q&A for this was particularly good, as it gave us the chance to question the Minister on the planning review, and future prospects for planning in Scotland.

There’s a picture of the Minister that I took and put on the planning Edinburgh insta which you should all be following.

By the way, the most used buzzword was “collaboration” (we guess. We didn’t keep a tally or anything). Coincidentally, “collaboration” is the very word Bob Reid (former convenor of RTPI Scotland) said we should replace with “mobilisation”. Bob’s talk was all about “collaborating: working together to deliver development”, and he says there’s no point in talking about things if you’re not getting anything done; collaboration v mobilisation.

Nicola Barclay, CEO of Homes for Scotland gave a talk on “leading”. She spoke about her journey to the role she’s in now, and what helped shape her into the leader she is today. She recommended we all do a quiz (something like this) to see what positive traits we have that we might not recognise on our own. Very inspirational stuff, loved it.

I attended 2 of the afternoon workshops;

“Making development work: the economics of development”, given by Catherine Wood (Gladman) and Ian Drummond (Taylor Wimpey).

Despite this being largely maths based, the process of valuing land was explained to us in a way we (most of us, anyway) could understand…. That toss up between giving better designed places or maximising profit. Toughy.

Also “make yourself an asset: effective networking and business development”, from Sandra Lindsay (Springfield Properties) and Michael Halliday (Halliday Fraser Munro).

This, I could totally get on board with. We learnt how to do an “elevator pitch”, which was effectively me selling myself to a stranger in 1 minute without coming across as a weirdo… I’ll have to keep you posted on how I manage with that…

To conclude: the information provided was very good, we all learned a lot throughout the day, and I didn’t lose a bet about “vision” being the most used buzzword.

Emma

Ps. It took a solid 24 minutes for Donald Trump to be mentioned, and he was subsequently mentioned maybe 3 further times;

“Do not leave the wrong impression” – we were learning about how to effectively network, here

 

RTPI President visit to Edinburgh

Last week we had the pleasure of a visit from Cath Ranson RTPI President to Edinburgh.  Cath joined us at the Edinburgh Urban Design Panel followed by a visit to the Royal Mile to find out about the Royal Mile Project and new development in the area.  ImageWe completed the afternoon with a meeting in the Urban Room where Cath took in a number of projects including our evolving 100 years of Planning Edinburgh exhibition and found out more about the work we have been doing on the Planning Concordat and processing agreements.  The visit was part of the RTPI Centenary Year which includes a number of RTPI Scotland events.