Chris Shepley, former chief planning inspector and principal of Chris Shepley Planning shares his career highlights.
What does your job entail?
I do a variety of work – enquiries, examinations into strategic and local plans, and providing planning advice to various public bodies and private developers. I chair the National Retail Planning Forum, and I write columns for The Planner, which currently takes up the most of my time. The best thing about my job is the variety.
How has your career path led to this role?
I had a long career in local government, beginning at Manchester City Council, progressing to my becoming the city planning officer of Plymouth and eventually leading to my becoming chief planning inspector at the Planning Inspectorate.
I took the decision when I was in my fifties to leave the Planning Inspectorate after eight years and establish my own practice. I had the choice of joining a big planning consultancy, and I did work with Terence O’Rourke on a number of projects at the beginning of this career change. Ultimately, I decided I wanted the flexibility to pick and choose the projects that I wanted to be involved in.
What has been the highlight of your planning career so far?
Being chief planning inspector. I think the Planning Inspectorate is the thing that holds the planning system together; it is a hugely professional organisation with fantastic people working for it, and while the job was challenging, I was grateful for the opportunity to do it.
If you were starting your career again, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Range as widely as you can – try to get experience in a lot of different areas. Also, you need to maintain a positive attitude; it has become too easy to view planning as a negative thing, where really the practice should be viewed as something creative and visionary.