Interview with Senior Planner, Tom Lawrence Bright

30th November 2018

This month, Tom Lawrence Bright joined Bell Cornwell as a Senior Planner. Tom has been working in various local authorities over the past ten years. We find out more about his planning background.

How long have you been a planner and is it what you have always wanted to do?

I have been working in planning for ten years now. I have always been fascinated by the built environment and was initially studying to be an architect. However, I realised that my real interests and strengths lay in planning and I have never looked back. Being part of the process of seeing the potential of sites realised is something I am passionate about.

Tell me about your planning background…

My previous planning experience has all been working for local authorities. I started out as a Planning Technician at Oxford City Council in 2008, where I progressed from validating planning applications to dealing with permitted development enquiries and eventually being a case officer for householder applications.

I made the switch to strategic planning in 2014, when I joined Kingston upon Thames as a Policy Planner. Whilst there I worked on a wide range of projects, including the introduction of an Article 4 Direction to remove office-to-residential PD rights, overseeing the designation of the first Neighbourhood Area and Forum in the borough and helping prepare the London-wide SHLAA for the London Plan. My most significant role was being responsible for updating the borough’s housing trajectory and five-year housing land supply, including preparing evidence for planning appeals and the new Local Plan.

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

This is my first planning job in the private sector so it’s very exciting to be working in a different professional environment. I really enjoy the buzz in the office and the wide variety of work that everyone deals with. I’m looking forward to engaging with all clients to help fulfil the potential of their sites. Dealing with sites all over the country and having an understanding of local planning policies for the first time is another fascinating part of the job that I thoroughly enjoy.

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

I think being realistic with clients as early as possible about the potential of the site is key, as well as establishing what their expectations are. We work with numerous consultants, so helping clients understand the planning process and providing regular updates will help ensure that they are happy with the service we provide.

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

Hiring a planner will help provide expertise and experience that can save a client both time and expense in the long run. From providing initial site appraisals through to securing planning permission and discharging conditions, I think planners offer great value to clients as the planning process is one of the most significant hurdles to overcome in the development process.

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