Councils are completing innovative work in planning. Hear from those who have changed their careers or returned to the planning profession to work on these projects.
I qualified as a charted town planner in 2003. For me planning is such an interesting and challenging profession. It is an ‘art’ rather than a ‘science’, which I think makes it even more appealing, as there are often no ‘right’ answers.
I took a career break in 2013 to concentrate on family life. A year later I decided that a ‘stay-at-home’ mum life was not for me and I started to pursue a return to work. It was a difficult decision as I knew that as a working mum I would have the tricky balance of trying to make time for my daughter whilst also delivering the work agenda and I would be very ‘tired’!
I found returning to a local authority provided me with a supportive environment, allowing me to take time off around my childcare commitments.
I would encourage anyone to consider returning to work after a career break. You will find that as soon as you step back into this world there are great people, interesting projects to work on and a genuine enthusiasm to support you on brushing up your knowledge and skill set. Just give it a go and before you know it, you will feel like you have never been away!
Policy Officer in a Strategic Planning Department
My favourite thing about working in council planning is the opportunity to work in a policy team. There is so much to learn and so many issues to get involved with. The more you learn, the more you realise how much more there is to learn!
Working for a council also allows you to be forward looking, to be able to affect positive change for the benefit of the people. It also offers the chance to get involved in cross-sectoral work and wider strategies.
There is really nothing to lose about returning to work in a council.There are so many roles in planning and if you work in a local authority, you will have the opportunity to see and try out different roles to find the work that interests you the most.
The interesting thing about working for local government is that you don’t get closer to the rockface than this! You are literally where it all happens. Private practice is so much further removed from the policy and strategy, as well as the delivery.
At the local government level, you work directly with those making plans and delivering work, and with the people who benefit from the delivery of the projects (ultimately the community).
I took a career break for a couple of years to look after my own family and to start my own business. I now work as a consultant delivering an infrastructure planning team.
If you are a qualified planner and you are unsure about returning to work after a break, I would say remember that employers are more open than you think.
Keep up to speed with what is going on in the industry, technically and anecdotally, so you are ready to hit the ground running when you do eventually return.
I left the planning profession to have my children and to focus on my home life for a bit. I’m also disabled and both my pregnancies affected my disability so I ended up taking just under three years out of work.
I decided to come back because I like to think I have a good work ethic and wanted to show my daughters that working is an important part of self-worth.
I also craved some adult conversation - anything other than repetitively singing ‘wind the bobbin up’!
It can be daunting returning after an absence, especially if (like me) you are also taking on a new stage in your home life (becoming a parent).
But recently councils have been leading the way in supporting flexible approaches to working life; encouraging home working, part-time or compressed hours, or split working between two jobs or organisations.
It's also a really exciting time to come back to council planning, which is really at the forefront of tackling the climate change emergency and the current housing crisis.
Service Director for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure
Planning is an exciting profession that has a massive impact on communities. In November 2013, Plymouth City Council formally launched the Plan for Homes initiative.
The plan was designed to tackle the limited housing ambition in the market, which had led to increasing housing waiting lists and levels of homelessness, issues surrounding fuel poverty, and missed government targets for building affordable housing.
In the five years since the plan’s inception,1112 houses have been built per year on average, an increase of just under double from before the plan. Of the 5563 houses completed during this time, 1529 of them were affordable (approx. 27.5 per cent).
Without intervention, the likely proportion of affordable houses would have been around 17 per cent. This had the effect of reducing the housing waiting list from around 12,000 to around 9,400.