Case study

Public sector planning officer — Elizabeth Donnelly

Discover how Elizabeth's part-time job led her to a career as a public sector planning officer upon graduation

How did you get your job?

After graduating with a geography degree, I started working in an admin role at the London Borough of Lewisham. While in this role, I studied for an MA in planning, policy and practice and once completed, I moved into a public sector planning officer role with the same employer.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Highly relevant, we covered all kinds of essential topics about planning such as planning law and urban design.

We also went on various field trips which helped to bring the subject to life, giving us the opportunity to see examples of both good and bad planning.

What are your main work activities?

I assess planning applications in relation to national, regional and local planning policy, which includes undertaking site visits, carrying out negotiations and working with external consultants on topics such as financial viability.

I also provide pre-application advice and I am involved in various service improvement projects.

How has your role developed and what are your main career ambitions?

I am busy gaining experience and knowledge every day. Since I first moved into my planning officer role, the complexity of the planning applications that I deal with has increased. At the moment much of my caseload revolves around residential infill developments, where the site constraints are plenty. Further to this, I am hoping to achieve full membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) very soon.

In terms of my career ambitions, I plan to expand upon my planning skills over the next few years with the longer term ambition to move into a regeneration-based project management role.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the challenge, the multi-disciplinary nature of planning and the fact that there is always plenty more to learn. I also like working with internal and external colleagues, developers and architects, from the pre-application stage to the high-quality developments.

It is rewarding to see the product of our hard work in the final construction.

What are the most challenging parts?

Working with the public and developers can be difficult at times, it is therefore important to ensure that expectations are managed as early as possible within the planning process, ideally at pre-application stage.

Any advice for someone who wants to become a planner?

Embrace change because planning is always changing; reflecting different political movements and agendas.

Be prepared for a challenging workload. A role like this is an opportunity to perfect your time management skills and learn something new.

Find out more