BA (Hons) Geography MA Town Planning
Senior Urban Design Consultant
I studied GCSEs in Maths, Electronics, Physics and Technology before undertaking A levels in Geography, English Language and Business Studies at Collyer’s from 1992-1995.
I had a very happy time at Collyer’s. I re-took my Maths GCSE here in order to pursue my A levels and so whilst I was doing that, I decided to take further GCSEs in different subjects I had not taken before. My GCSE Maths teacher was my inspiration, she believed in me, and it was her support that helped me to achieve the grade I needed in to go on to do my A levels. I don’t remember having much career guidance during my time, but I do remember having workshops where people from outside used to come and talk to us about different sectors in careers. I wanted to go into computing initially, but I did not have the skills to pursue this, hence my choice in A levels and a steer towards humanities. Taking Geography A level sparked my interest in learning more about people, places, and the environment.
After Collyer’s I went onto university to study a BA with Honours in Geography, followed by an MA in Town planning. I have just started working for Place Services which is a trade arm of Essex County Council and prior to this I have been a Town Planner for 20 years working for 3 different Local Authorities across Cambridgeshire. My last role was a Planning Team Leader where I managed, coached, and mentored a team of Planning Officers, and dealing with a caseload of major, complex planning applications. I am currently working towards chartered membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
My job does make a difference as we can influence the development and future of new communities and spaces. We have to balance the delivery of new development against the impact on the natural and built environment, and my current job is to ensure that developments are of the highest quality. As a town planner I was a decision maker, making recommendations on planning applications and presenting some major applications to the Planning Committee. My current role does not include decision making but advising local authorities on design schemes. These schemes could be nationwide and not specific to Essex.
Our work definitely impacts on society and aims to improve the built environment for future generations and are able to see the impacts of new developments and how it changes society.
My typical day is currently evolving as I have only been in the role for a few days. I work predominantly at home with one day in the office in Chelmsford. However, during my time as a Town Planner, it involved meetings, site visits, managing and supporting my team, dealing with major applications (progress meetings, writing reports, liaising with stakeholders), and answering queries from members of the public.
I love that the role exposes you to so many different environmental challenges and no two projects are ever the same, presenting different issues that require logical thinking and careful assessment.
The role is very demanding and requires a variety of skills including time management, organisation, inter-personal, analytical skills, customer service and a high level of diplomacy and empathy.
If you are looking to get into a similar role, I would advise following a similar route and choosing an environmental subject (either Geography, Geology or Environmental or Marine Science) as a pre-requisite to a Town Planning/Urban Design course. Start working in a local authority first to understand how the planning system works before moving on to the private sector, although this does not need to be the case, but it provides good grounding in dealing with planning application.
Looking back I wish I had taken up Environmental Science, instead of Business Studies, as this was my least favourite subject and was a 100% exam course.
What next Angela? I am working in my most ideal job as I have moved from Town Planning to Urban Design, where my focus is more on improving the built environment by place-making and shaping. I am now hoping to have more free time to relax and spend more time with my family and pursue my hobby of baking.