Interview with our newest recruit, Matt Taylor

10th July 2018

This June we welcomed Senior Principal Planner, Matt Taylor to the team.

We took the opportunity to speak to Matt and find out more about him and his planning career.

How long have you been a planner and have you always wanted to be one?

I have been a planner for 10 years, having cut my teeth as a Local Authority Planning Officer and later becoming a private sector consultant.

I have not always wanted to be a planner (I am not sure if anyone has always wanted to be one?!) not least because few people outside of the development industry actually know what a planner is, let alone what one actually does! Indeed, I had no idea of the enormity and complexity of the planning system until embarking upon my University studies many years ago. I have, however, always had a keen interest in the built environment, derived from my Father who forged a career in the construction industry. My interest in the built environment, strongly coupled with an interest in the natural environment, enabled me to excel in social and physical Geography during my school years. This interest, coupled with career advice indicated that my knowledge and skills were ideally suited to the planning sector and from there I chose my undergraduate studies in City and Regional Planning.

Tell me about your planning background…

I graduated from Oxford Brookes with a degree in Town and Regional Planning in 2008 and joined West Berkshire Council on a contractual basis that same year with a view to a permanent appointment. I immediately made a name for myself as a hard working Assistant Planning Officer with the Local Planning Authority by clearing a backlog of over 200 informal enquiries and pre-application advice requests which dated back as far as two years before I joined. I soon progressed into dealing with larger and more complex proposals and West Berkshire Council provided me with a firm understanding of ‘Development Control’ from a Local Authority point of view, both in terms of decision making and due process.

I later joined Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, originally as an Assistant Planning Officer, quickly progressing into an acting Planning Officer role. I feel I was able to broaden my range of duties and experience thereby dealing with increasingly complex proposals and being involved in Planning Committees and Appeals work.

I later joined a multi-disciplinary planning consultancy based in the Thames Valley as a planning consultant. During my time at this practice, I provided planning consultancy services for a range of clients, ranging from private individuals looking to achieve larger replacement houses in constrained locations and smaller entrepreneurial developers often exploring brownfield sites, through to major developers exploring strategic opportunities. After several years as a planning consultant, I progressed to become manager of the planning consultancy, overseeing a team of consultants and responsible for a large array of development projects.

You have recently started working for Bell Cornwell, what have you enjoyed about the company so far?

Working for Bell Cornwell has been a refreshing step in my career, the personalised outlook towards clients ensures that the best quality service can be provided and this is reflected in the successful planning outcomes achieved. The honesty in the approach of Bell Cornwell is also exceptional, with realistic advice ensuring that our clients do not waste time and resources on abortive or high-risk proposals. The company ethos of providing clear, realistic advice with a personalised service filters down through the company, with it being recognised that manageable workloads and a positive working environment ensures that a high quality and personalised service can be provided to all of our clients. This has also clearly enabled Bell Cornwell to attract the best staff, which has created an excellent and unrivalled collective knowledge base comprising expert planning consultants. On top of this, I have been made to feel very welcome in what can only be described as a happy working environment – and happy staff means happy clients!

You deal with many clients on a wide array of projects, how do you ensure that each client is dealt with personally?

The focus of Bell Cornwell is to provide a personalised service with clear realistic advice. Accordingly, through collaborative team working and effective resourcing, we can ensure that our consultants who are best placed to assist with specific proposals, based upon their individual experience and expertise, form part of the project team to ensure the best and most effective outcomes for our clients. We, therefore, tailor our service to provide the best possible outcome for each client individually ensuring that each client receives a personalised service.

From your previous experience, in what way does hiring a planner help with a project?

The English planning system is incredibly complex with constantly shifting policy and Case Law, complicated by many LPA’s having disjointed and often out of date development plan documents. Having a professional consultant to guide clients through the planning jungle can be integral to avoiding the many pitfalls.

Drawing on my previous experience, hiring a planner can help in the following ways:

  • Time-saving – By first evaluating the constraints and opportunities of sites we can produce a bespoke strategy which takes advantage of both the opportunities and constraints in order to achieve the desired development outcomes. The front-loading ensures that matters are largely addressed before planning applications are submitted which, in collaboration with architects and other consultants, can secure planning permission in a more effective and time efficient manner.
  • Save money – there are many elements of planning which can save clients’ money with one of the most compelling being due diligence. By appraising sites in advance we can ensure that land or development is not pursued which has little chance of success. Equally, by being diligent in our staged approach coupled with expert advice, we aim to secure consent efficiently avoiding mounting costs.
  • Professional standards – When a Local Planning Authority receives an application from a well-respected consultancy who are also chartered by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), they know that the work is diligent and professional and therefore correct. This often ensures that applications require more limited, if any, negotiation and, where discussion is required, Planning Officers will show restraint rather than asking for unjustified requirements.

You can contact Matt at either or 01256 766673.

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