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The Friday Five 02.06.23

Published on: 2 Jun 2023

It's the Friday Five, our weekly round-up of planning jobs and place-based facts. this week, top vacancies in Oxfordshire, Wandsworth, Cornwall, Havering and Wrexham; and tales of Old Speckled Hen, the UK's first scramble crossing and the revival of Cornish.


Location: Abingdon. Oxfordshire/Home

The job: "Are you a dynamic and enthusiastic town planner with experience in local and ideally neighbourhood plan-making?  South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are looking for an ambitious planning policy officer committed to place-making and high-quality customer service. If you are ready for a new challenge with opportunities to develop professionally, this could be the role for you.

"The successful applicant for this important role will join the councils at an exciting time to help deliver the work of the policy team.  The immediate focus will be to support communities which are preparing neighbourhood plans for many of our towns and villages as well as supporting the council’s delivery of a pilot testing a simpler form of neighbourhood planning. This will include advising community groups on correct procedure, ensuring that their plans are aligned with the districts’ current and emerging development plans, and helping to manage the examination and adoption of neighbourhood plans. This post will also contribute to the progression of local plan work as required."

Old Speckled Hen [square]Fun fact: Old Speckled Hen. It’s a beer that was first brewed in Abingdon by the Morland Brewery, which was based in the town from the early 18th century until 2000. Its name, though, has nothing to do with hens or agriculture, but rather cars: Old Speckled Hen was first brewed as a one-off in 1979 to mark the 50th anniversary of the MG factory, which opened in the town in 1929.

Old Speckled Hen is named for an experimental MG car that was used to ferry workers around the car maker’s site in the town. The car was actually called the Featherlight Saloon but was known affectionately as ‘odd speckled un’ on account of its body being made of a wooden frame covered with gold-speckled black fabric. 

In 1979, MG asked Morland to create a commemorative beer to mark its half century in the town. MG itself came up with the name. It prove so popular that Morland put the beer into production – and its still brewed today, by Greene King (which bought Morland in 2000). Because of its popularity and brand strength, the Hen range has expanded to include Old Crafty Hen, Hen’s Tooth, Old Golden Hen and Old Hoppy Hen.

Find out more and apply


Location: Wandsworth, London

The job: "Are you a chartered surveyor who could help us maximise the benefits that come with new development to increase Wandsworth’s social housing offer?

"An exciting opportunity has arisen within the spatial and transport planning service for a new permanent principal development viability officer (Wandsworth). You will lead on viability matters relating to development coming forward in Wandsworth Borough, maximising opportunities for affordable housing delivery, particularly social rent, through the realm of planning. 

"The main responsibilities include critically reviewing inputs and outputs of financial viability appraisals at pre-application stage and as part of planning applications, negotiating and challenging applicants and viability consultants on the factors and outputs that determine the viability of schemes, scrutinising the outputs from the council’s external viability consultants, and securing financial contributions. You will ensure that the planning service is well equipped in assessing, and where necessary, challenging the viability assumptions of developments coming forward and liaising with the housing and resources team on grant eligibility.

"You will lead on all aspects related to financial viability of developments in Wandsworth, working under minimal supervision and taking personal responsibility for your work and projects; you will also be responsible for ensuring there are up-to-date guidance and processes in place in relation to the requirements for financial viability appraisals in Wandsworth."

X crossing [square]Fun fact: Balham, in the borough of Wandsworth, was the location of the UK’s first diagonal X-crossing, installed at the intersection of Balham High road with Balham Station and Chestnut Grove in 2005. It was adopted at Oxford Circus in 2009.

The X crossing is also known as a ‘pedestrian scramble’, ‘scramble intersection’ or ‘scramble crossing’. Basically, the principle is that all motor traffic in all directions at a four-way intersection is stopped simultaneously to allow pedestrians to cross as they wish.

The scramble crossing was first introduced in Denver, Colorado, in the 1940s by a traffic engineer called Henry Barnes. It was inevitably known as a ‘Barnes Dance’ (of course!). Barnes later became traffic commissioner to New York City and introduced the scramble crossing to 42nd Street, Wall Street, Fifth Aveue and more.

Although it caught on and has appeared quite widely (including at what was then the world's busiest pedestrian intersection in Shibuya, Tokyo, in 1973), the scramble crossing has been discontinued in some places because it can create more delays that it purports to solve – in New York, for example...

Balham, though, is becoming a bit of centre for crossing experimentation and was the site for what was claimed to be the world’s first ‘intelligent’ pedestrian cross, outside Balham Station, in 2014. Under this system, traffic isn't given a green light until all pedestrians have cleared the crossing area.

Find out more and apply


Location: Cornwall

The job: "This well-established, award-wining and friendly practice has a thorough understanding of the complex planning process and a proven track record for securing planning permission for challenging sites. They attract nationwide commissions on a range of projects, from high-end residential developments and commercial schemes to luxury coastal properties and individually designed homes.

"Applicants should have experience in a planning role at a senior level and experience in handling a broad range of development proposals, including major housing and commercial proposals, through the local plan, application and appeal process.

"The role will include ongoing coaching from the leaders of the business who will work with you to help you realise your professional goals."

Welcome to Penzance sign [square]Fun fact: The Cornish language, which skirted with extinction through the 19th and 20th centuries, is undergoing something of a revival – not least in the hands of people like film director Mark Jenkin, whose 2022 film Enys Men features Cornish dialogue and was promoted with posters in Cornish.

A Celtic language, descended from the Common Brittonic spoken throughout Britain south of the Firth of Firth until the Saxon period, Cornish was extinct as a spoken language by the end of the 18th century. Surprisingly, its closest relative is Breton, spoken by descendants of Cornish immigrants in Brittany in France, rather than Welsh and Cumbric, both also descended from Common Brittonic. This was due to the expansion of Saxons, which isolated the Brittonic speakers in Cornwall (and drove emigration to Western France).

As late as 1500 around half of Cornish residents were native Cornish speakers. By 1800 this number had dwindled to more or less zero (although there may have been a few pockets remaining). Efforts to revive the language began in the late 19th/early 20th century. By the end of the 20th century there were 300 known speakers; nowadays around 3,000 people are thought to have familiarity with the language and 500 to be fluent speakers.

The contemporary revival has been helped by the language being recognised as a minority language by the UK government and as critically endangered by UNESCO. Cornwall Council promotes the language on road signs and in its own publications; and there is a growing collection of films being made in the language, spearheaded by Mark Jenkin, whose Bait and Enys Men have both been acclaimed.

But what’s it like? Here’s a sample:

Genys frank ha par yw oll tus an bys yn aga dynita hag yn aga gwiryow.

And in modern English: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Find out more and apply 


Location: Romford, London

The job: "Though we are the third largest borough in London, Havering is not as well known as its Essex and east London neighbours. We are changing that. We have so much planned in Havering for you to get involved in – from improving connectivity to Romford and Rainham, extensive home building and creating integrated and long-lasting infrastructure to give our residents and businesses the services they need.

"We are excited to be growing our transport planning team. Over the next few years, we are embarking on a regeneration journey that will transform our borough, create high quality places, connect our towns and bring opportunities for all.  Nationally significant infrastructure projects are also being delivered in the borough, including the Lower Thames Crossing, one of the largest planning applications in the country.

"In this vital leadership role, you will use your transport planning and supervisory skills to support the delivery of regeneration and growth across the borough, to ensure that growth is delivered in line with the Havering Local Plan and the Havering Local Implementation Plan.

"Your key responsibilities will include delivering transport planning projects and providing policy input into strategic infrastructure schemes being delivered across Havering."

Riders by Jilly Cooper [square]Fun fact: Apparently, our prime minister's favourite work of fiction is the novel Riders by Jilly Cooper, who was born – you guessed it – in Havering. Or Hornchurch, to be precise; in 1937, to Mary Elaine and Brigadier W B Sallitt OBE. She was subsequently educated at boarding school. Yes, despite the fairly salacious, pulpy reputation of her work, Jilly Cooper was born an upper middle class girl and class (as well as sex and horses) is a common theme throughout her work.

We digress.Young Jilly started working life as a junior reporter on The Middlesex Independent in Brentford and went on to work as an account executive, copywriter, publisher’s reader and receptionist. It was a chance meeting at a dinner party with the then editor of The Sunday Times Magazine that led to Cooper writing a feature about her experiences which, in turn, led to a long-running column about marriage, sex and housework and to a career as an author.

Her first book, How to Stay Married, appeared in 1969, followed by a guide to working life, How To Survive From Nine To Five, in 1970 and her light, comedic non-fiction works in a similar vein proved popular for decades. Her first work of fiction was a romance, Emily, published in 1975. This was followed by Bella, Imogen, Prudence, Harriet and Octavia. She was successful from the start, her honesty about sex and modern perspectives on class and relationships proving a hit with readers. 

Her best known works are the ‘Rutshire Chronicles’ a series of dramas set in glamorous milieu (showjumping, mainly) and that document the sexual infidelities, betrayals, melodramatic lives and money worries of the very well-off. Riders, the first and best known of these, was published in 1985. The most recent, the suggestively titled Mount! in 2016. 

Cooper has been phenomenally successful. She continues to write occasional light non-fiction works, her novels remain popular and she is both an OBE and a CBE. She moved from Havering long ago (she has a manor house in Gloucestershire), but it’s fair to say the girl from Havering did pretty well for herself (and parlayed a hell of a career out of her early experiences of womanhood in the 1950s and 60s).

Find out more and apply


Location: Wrexham, Wales

The job: "We are very proud of our newly awarded city status. With a new place shaping strategy being developed and many interesting regeneration projects and major developments in the pipeline, busy and exciting times are ahead.

"We are looking for a highly motivated and experienced town planning professional to provide managerial and professional support to the head of service development management (who is responsible for leading all aspects of the delivery of the development management and planning enforcement services), including having line manager responsibility for the development management and enforcement officers.

"Applicants will need to demonstrate positive behaviours which align with the council’s values – trust, respect, innovation, flexibility, integrity and commitment.

"We are proud to hold a gold award for corporate health and our culture is based on empowerment, support, and trust. We move to a modern, newly refurbished office in the centre of the city at the end of 2022 and we work in a flexible and agile way."

Ryan Reynolds [square]Fun fact: Wrexham AFC, generally considered the third-oldest professional football team in the world, is owned by two VERY famous North American actors: Ryan Reynolds (best known for Deadpool) and Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia). The pair bought the struggling club in November 2020.

At the time, Wrexham were near the bottom of the National League (non-league basically). Buoyed by the new ownership, they finished 8th that season, 2nd in 2022 and, finally last month, won the National League to secure promotion back to the English Football League for the first time since 2008. In the meantime the club had flirted with administration.

The story of how two big stars came to buy a struggling football club is probably best told by Four Four Two magazine. But, in essence, it was a love of sports combined with a love of storytelling and a desire to build something from very little that seems to have inspired the pair. their £2 million investment is paying off handsomely: Wrexham’s travails are being documented in a very popular reality TV series (Welcome to Wrexham), the community seems to have taken the pair to their hearts and on-field success is apparent, too.

The club will be celebrating its 160th birthday next year. What’s the betting they do so with another promotion?

Find out more and apply

Image credits | Urbanbuzz, Shutterstock; StockStudio-Aerials, Shutterstock; Jonny Neesom, Shutterstock; WXM Photography, Shutterstock