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In very simple terms, town planning is about the use and development of land and the role of a town planner is to work with landowners, homeowners, other members of the community and elected councillors to decide what should be allowed to be built and how land should be used.
In reality however, town planning is a much more complex and important process that simply saying “yes” or “no” to development. The role of a town planner is to weigh-up many competing issues in order to make a decision or recommendation.
People become town planners for many different reasons – because they want to help deliver new homes and create new jobs, because they want to help protect the environment, because they want development to be well designed and sensitive to its surroundings, because they want to help regenerate and revive declining places, because they want to deliver the facilities needed to support growth such as roads, schools and play areas – and often for all of these and other reasons at the same time.
Policy planners must gather evidence on the need for new homes and jobs, the capacity of infrastructure and the environment to accommodate growth and then set targets and identify the most suitable sites for development. They must also work with neighbouring councils and statutory bodies to plan for cross-boundary issues such as transport and utilities. Their main responsibility is to prepare a Local Plan which sets a long term vision for the borough and policies that will be used to determine planning applications. They are also involved in the redevelopment and regeneration of key sites such as town centres and employment areas.
Development Management planners are responsible for determining planning applications that are submitted to the Council. They must consider national legislation and local planning policies, the case put forward by the applicant and the views of local residents and others to decide whether the proposal is acceptable. On many occasions they must find ways to solve problems by putting conditions on the development or seeking contributions to improve the local road network or increase the capacity of the local school. Senior officers often have to present their reports at planning committee and help councillors decide whether to grant or refuse permission.
Support officers are responsible for validating planning applications when they are first submitted, checking that the correct fee has been paid and organising all of the associated notification and publicity material. They work closely with officers to ensure that applications are properly administered and consulted upon in accordance with national requirements.
Enforcement planners are responsible for resolving situations where land is being used inappropriately or something has been built without planning permission. They must work with landowners and homeowners to remedy breaches or take enforcement action where a solution cannot be found. They will often need to attend inquiries and court hearings to present the Council’s case to a planning inspector or judge.
The service also has a Landscape and Ecology team that is responsible for over 30,000 street trees, a number of protected woodlands and open spaces, the planting of key green spaces in town centres and a portfolio of allotments.
Welwyn Hatfield is an exciting place to work because of the range of planning issues that officers are likely to encounter.
Welwyn Garden City is the world’s second garden city built by Ebenezer Howard in the 1920s onwards and planners must balance this heritage with the demands of 21st century life. Hatfield is a post-war new town with a thriving business park and university campus but some areas are in need of renewal. Over the coming years both towns must embrace higher density developments around their town centres and large urban extensions on their edges. For example, there are plans to redevelop the Shredded Wheat site for 1,400 homes and to build new shopping facilities in Welwyn Garden City town centre and plans for new homes and facilities in and around Hatfield town centre and a bike hire scheme for residents and students.
These towns are home to many major businesses, including the headquarters of Tesco and Ocado, the University of Hertfordshire and the Royal Veterinary Collage and world-renound tourist destinations such as Hatfield House.
The Council has an Economic Development team that is tasked with working with businesses of all sizes and others to help strengthen the local economy and the skills of the local workforce.
The villages of Woolmer Green, Oaklands and Mardley Heath, Digswell, Welwyn, Welham Green, Brookmans Park and Cuffley are all facing the challenge of how to accommodate growth and retain their distinct character and identity.
All of the surrounding land is attractive countryside designated as green belt, but remains under pressure from proposals for the conversion and extension of rural properties.
The Director, Head of Service and team managers have the ambition for Welwyn Hatfield to be the best planning authority in Hertfordshire, in terms of preparing responsible planning policies, achieving and exceeding national performance targets for determining planning applications and our reputation as a desirable place to work.
As an employee you can expect a competitive salary, a genuine commitment to continuous professional development and excellent opportunities for career progression. The service has a number of career grade posts so that people can progress from assistant to officer to senior level and some newly created apprenticeship posts for people in the earliest stages of a planning career.
As a member of the Planning Support team, your role will be to deal with day-to-day queries from members of the public and to help them understand how the planning system works. You will also validate planning applications by checking that it contains all of the relevant supporting documents and the right application fee, and then loading everything onto our IT system so that it can be issued for public consultation. People in this team have very good administrative and customer service skills.
As a member of the Development Management team, you will be the case officer for a range of planning applications. It will be your job to visit the site, assess the merits of the proposed development, take account of views expressed by partners and the public and then write a report which recommends whether the application should be approved or refused. The types of applications that you deal will become larger and more complex as you gain more experience. You may occasionally be asked to present your recommendation to elected members at a public committee meeting. People in this team have very good judgement and problem-solving skills.
As a member of the Planning Enforcement team, your role is to investigate suspected breaches of planning control. You will visit the site and then liaise with the land or property owner to see whether the issue can be easily resolved. In some cases you may have to serve enforcement notices and then progress legal action to get the issue resolved. People in this team have very good negotiation skills and can remain committed to a particular course of action in the face of opposition.
As a member of the Planning Policy team, your role is to gather evidence on a variety of different topics such as housing, employment, the environment, etc and use this knowledge to prepare planning policies, which can then be used to guide the future of the borough and determine planning applications. People in this team have very good analysis skills and can think through the long-term implications of a particular course of action.
We also have a team of planners who focus their attention on regeneration projects, such as town centres and employment areas. These staff have very good team-working skills as they must work with many different partners to shape a shared vision of the future.
We also encourage staff to work together across these different teams to deliver high quality development. This means that it is a very collaborative and supportive place to work. It means that staff can learn from one another, which helps to grow and develop their careers.
We also have regular social events, which have included punting in Cambridge,
rafting at the Olympic White Water Centre, bowling, BBQs and a One True Grid mud run.