Phil Williams 2016 RTPI president and director of planning & place at Belfast City Council tells us how he got to where he is today.
What does your job entail?
In Belfast, my work concerns creating a fit-for-purpose planning service following the transfer of powers back to local government. As RTPI president, I have concentrated on elevating the planning profession into the centre of the place making debate, and raising recognition for the fact that a successful place is the result of interplay between people, politicians and planners.
How has your career path led to this role?
I began working in Surrey County Council and the London Borough of Sutton, principally around policy. I moved back to Wales and became an enforcement officer, then worked with valley communities on environmental and social integration projects following the demise of the coal industry.
I then worked in Cardiff following the closure of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, where there was a growing awareness of how the decisions taken in policy terms and in individual big schemes helped to create the city as the economic driver for the region.
What has been your most memorable achievement as a planner?
Becoming RTPI president – being in a position of maximum influence, being able to listen at the highest level and seek to influence policy-making.
If you were starting your career again, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Degrees don’t necessarily provide the experience that you need when you hit the ground. I would advocate to students that they not only concentrate on the theory behind planning but also try and gain practical experience during their studies, whether in the public or private sector. As soon as you can, become a practitioner in some aspect of planning.