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The Friday Five 16.02.24

Published on: 16 Feb 2024

It's The Friday Five, our weekly selection of five of the best town planing jobs advertised on Planner Jobs this week – plus some fun facts thrown in for your entertainment and amusement. This week, planning positions in Cirencester, Ashford, Haverfordwest, Matlock and Bromley; plus tall tales encompassing Roman amphitheatres, the many Rivers Stour, a Derbyshire tourist attraction, a Welsh-born actor who insists he’s English but is now a US citizen; and spam.


Location: Cirencester, Gloucestershire

The job: "Here's an exceptional opportunity to join Cotswold District Council as a principal planning enforcement officer to spearhead a variety of complex planning enforcement cases, whilst delivering an outstanding service through an innovative and practical solutions-based approach. You'll be pivotal in directing team members and creating sustainable enforcement outcomes, whilst being a cog in shaping our service.

"You'll lead in providing technical expertise, advice and direction to internal and external customers in relation to a variety of complex planning enforcement matters, including identifying and investigating breaches of planning control, and to deal with planning applications resulting from planning enforcement investigations in a timely manner.

"You'll be the focal point in leading all aspects of processing a wide variety of enforcement cases, dealing with applicants, agents and members of the public, within a vibrant, varied and well-motivated team environment."

Cirencester Roman amphitheatre [square]Fun fact:  Cast your mind back a couple of millennia. Okay, don’t. But if you were to do so, and you were to be travelling the Fosse Way from Exeter to Lincoln, you’d find yourself passing Cirencester, a bustling Roman city, second only in importance in Britain to London. Or, if we were to use the Roman names, that would be Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter), Lindum Colonia (Lincoln), Corinium Dobunnorum (cirencester), Britannia and Londinium.

Anyway, back in the 2nd century CE, the walled city of Corinium had a population of around 10,000 (even today it’s only 20,000) and everything the modern Romano-Brit could desire in terms of comforts, conveniences, goods and entertainments.

The last included a large oval amphitheatre, measuring roughly 40x45 metres. Its eight-metre-high banked walls would have held tiered wooden seating able to accommodate almost the whole of the city's population. As an amphitheatre, rather than a stage, it would have hosted some pretty gruesome entertainment; this would mostly have revolved around gladiators fighting and killing other gladiators, or fighting a variety of large, scary beasts (and killing them, or being killed). Such was the popular entertainment of the day.

Anyhow, with the end of Roman occupation, the amphitheatre fell out of use and its wooden seats and other structures have long since rotted away. What remains, though, is the earthworks that formed the amphitheatre’s sides. These are now a scheduled ancient monument and the site as a whole has yielded a variety of Roman artefacts.

The site was not entirely abandoned, however. It’s known that in the Middle Ages, the site was enclosed by the Abbot of Cirencester for use as a rabbit warren (which presumably provided food for the Abbot and and his guests). And it's been locally known as the Bull Ring, which suggests some recollection of its use for bull-baiting.

Nowadays, it’s an unusually grassy mound surrounded by trees alongside the A429 Bristol Road which, for much of its length follows the route of – you guessed it – the Fosse Way. There’s simply no escaping those Romans, is there?

Find out more and apply


Location: Ashford, Kent

The job: "We're an ambitious local authority in the Garden of England, strategically located between London and the Channel Tunnel / Dover. We're the largest borough in Kent with two towns and numerous villages set within glorious countryside, 43 conservation areas, more than 3,000 listed buildings and two large areas of outstanding natural beauty. These factors, coupled with a range of exciting planning opportunities and challenges at our main town of Ashford, make the borough a great place to invest, live and work.

"We aim to ensure that these attractive qualities are protected from inappropriate development, and that the community has confidence in the planning system as they experience it. We have an effective proactive customer-focused enforcement team with good town planning problem-solving skills which is vital to achieving that aim.

"The planning enforcement team covers the entire borough. The team reviews planning records, investigates matters on-site according to their priority against our adopted local enforcement plan, seeks to understand local community sensitivities and concerns, prepares reports and recommendations setting out the most effective action to remedy breaches of control, monitors compliance with agreed actions and, if formal enforcement is unavoidable, works with legal colleagues in a timely manner to take forward that action and deal with any appeals that arise.

"This role would suit someone already with some experience of operating within a legal framework and knowledge of the planning system. The post is career graded so that a successful applicant wishing to achieve a Royal Town Planning Institute planning qualification through the successful completion of external training which would be funded by the Council has the scope to progress further within the salary range."

River Stour [square]Fun fact: Ashford in Kent (be sure not to confuse it with Ashford in Surrey) is bisected by the River Stour – not to be confused with the River Stour in East Anglia! Or the one in Dorset, Warwickshire, or Worcestershire…

No one knows exactly why ‘Stour’ is such a common name for rivers – it’s a phenomenon largely confined to England within the UK, but there’s a tributary of the Po in Northern Italy named the Stura, and in Germany the Stoer flows into the River Elbe. 

One theory has been advanced that the name comes from the adjective stour, a Middle English word meaning ‘large’ or ‘powerful’, but there’s also stour as a noun, from medieval French, meaning ‘tumult, commotion, confusion’. 

Adding more complication (tumult and confusion, indeed!) is the fact that England’s five River Stours are all pronounced differently, sometimes even along the same river. According to Brewer's Britain and Ireland, the Stour in Oxfordshire sometimes rhymes with mower, and the Worcestershire Stour rhymes with hour

The River Stour in Essex and Suffolk varies from stowr to stoor, and the Kentish Stour, where we started our journey, rhymes with tour. And that, friends, was a quick etymological tour of the Stour.

Find out more and apply


Location: Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

The job: "As the local authority for one of the UK’s most beautiful counties, we are immensely proud of our landscape and our communities. Home to a world renowned coastline and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, we have some outstanding natural assets. Of equal importance to our thriving tourist economy is our resurgent (and increasingly green and blue) energy industry. We are in the midst of a transformative journey of improvement within our organisation, ensuring that we are able to meet the needs of our residents and businesses now and into the future.

"The past 18 months have seen us make significant improvements in our planning team. We have created a positive and customer-centric culture and put the systems and processes in place to ensure we deliver an effective planning function for applicants and residents. We now need to appoint our next head of planning to lead the team to the next level – ensuring that our planning function is genuinely sector-leading.

"Reporting to our assistant chief executive, you'll take on a pivotal leadership role within our corporate management team. You will ensure that planning acts as an enabling function for the broader strategic objectives of the council, whilst also delivering a first-class customer experience.

"We welcome applications from senior planning professionals with relevant leadership experience within a local authority context (either in Wales or elsewhere). You'll have a track record of service transformation and improvement, coupled with an appetite to work collaboratively and creatively for the benefit of the residents of Pembrokeshire."

Christian Bale [square]Fun fact: A surprisingly high number of notable folk have emerged from Haverfordwest over the years. Although perhaps we shouldn’t be entirely surprised, as it’s a historically important and very strategically located market town that can trace its origins back to the Iron Age. There is, of course, The Planner magazine’s own Huw Morris, our associate editor; there's Terry Higgins, after whom The Terrence Higgins Trust is named; there's TV presenter Fiona Phillips, and musician Gruff Rhys (of Super Furry Animals fame); and there are actors Connie Fisher, Rhys Ifans and Christian Bale.

Let’s talk a little about Mr Bale. He seems to have been in the public eye for so very long that it’s easy to forget that he's only just reached 50. That’s because he first came to prominence as a 13-year-old with a brilliant performance in the title role of Empire Of The Sun, the Spielberg film based on J G Ballard's memoir of his war years spent in a Japanese internment camp.

It’s well known that the transition from child stardom to adult recognition is an extremely tricky one, but the truth is that Bale has barely been out of the spotlight since 1987 and has built his entire career in the public eye. He simply didn’t stop making movies, learnt his trade in a variety of supporting roles and then emerged as a leading man in the controversial American Psycho in 2000.

Since then, he's become one of the biggest movie stars in the world, though not without his dodgy moments; there have been a few examples of volatile behaviour – but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised given his intense commitment to his roles, which at one point involved losing 28kg for his part in The Machinist. He’s even been known to continue speaking in the accent of his character while off-camera. Bale himself claims he’s not a Method actor but cites his greatest acting inspiration as Rowan Atkinson...

Despite being born in Wales, Bale insists that he is English. Both his parents, an entrepreneur and a circus performer were English and the family left Wales when young Christian was just two. Indeed, it's surprising that he claims anywhere as home, since he’d lived in 15 towns by the age of 15 (including in Portugal). Since the 1990s, however, Bales has lived in Los Angeles, the home of the US movie industry. He holds US citizenship. Perhaps we should have gone with Rhys Ifans, a true welsh-speaking Welshman who, coincidentally, was singer with the Super Furry animals before Gruff Rhys. 

Find out more and apply


Location: Matlock, Derbyshire

The job: "Derbyshire Dales is one of the most beautiful Districts in the Country, combining spectacular countryside, vibrant market towns and a world heritage site with easy access to Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester.  

"Derbyshire Dales is a council with ambition, flair and imagination with a real drive and focus on continuous improvement. We're committed to ensuring the district’s growth is planned and sustainable and are seeking an RTPI-qualified development manager to help us achieve our ambitions. 

"As development manager, you'll lead our approach to strategic planning and design in a collaborative way across the council. You'll work in partnership with neighbouring authorities and also negotiate with developers. You'll be responsible for shaping and leading our team of planning officers in delivering our corporate and local plan objectives.

"This is a high profile and challenging ‘place shaping’ role at Derbyshire Dales and there are plenty of opportunities to shape your legacy here."

Matlock cablecar [square]Fun fact: On the edges of Matlock in the Derbyshire Dales lies Matlock Bath, and on the hills above this picturesque dales town stand the Heights of Abraham, a sort of theme park and cave system. As an experience, it’s unique in that you have to go up in a cable car in order to go down into the attraction’s two caverns, and that said cable car system is Britain's first, having opened in 1984.

The Heights are based on Masson Hill, which had been home to two working lead mines since Roman times until the main caverns – the Great Rutland and Great Masson Caverns – were turned into tourist attractions in the early 19th century. Tinker’s shaft – stop giggling at the back there – has been turned into a viewing platform that will appeal to anyone wanting to look out over the Derbyshire Dales.

If the prospect of being among the first to see deposits of calcite crystals excites you (said crystals having been revealed when the Cavern was cleaned last winter) then this one’s for you.

If you’re wondering about the name, the Heights are named after a supposed resemblance to the Plains of Abraham, also known as the Heights of Abraham, in Quebec, Canada, where famed British Army officer James Wolfe died in battle.

Find out more and apply


Location: Bromley, London

The job: "We're London’s largest borough, made up of areas with distinct urban and suburban character, and large areas of green belt and open countryside. Our historic environment is a key asset, including 47 conservation areas and more than 400 listed buildings. Bromley also plays an important role in the regional economy.

"This provides the backdrop for the council’s ongoing local plan review, which has to balance protection of Bromley’s unique character with the need to address requirements for new development, particularly housing and employment uses.

"Our newly created planning policy team leader position offers the opportunity for a motivated, experienced planner to play an integral role in preparing the new local plan and developing innovative solutions to tackle the key challenges facing Bromley. Your main responsibility will be progressing the review of the local plan, motivating and leading a team of planning policy officers to develop an evidence base, meet statuary requirements and undertake consultation. The role will also include responsibility for a range of other planning policy functions."

Spam [square]Fun fact: The town of Bromley in Kent has the huge honour of being designated by the Monty Python comedy troupe as the home of the Green Midget café. That’s right, the fictional eatery in which the team’s seminal Spam sketch, arguably its finest, was set.

It remains one of the most sublimely surreal five minutes of television ever broadcast. The scene opens with two visitors, a Mr and Mrs Bun, entering the café by being winched down from above onto their seats. A waitress then seeks to take the couple’s order and sparks an argument by reciting a menu on which nearly every dish contains Spam. Mrs Bun, it transpires, doesn’t like Spam. At several points, a group of Vikings – because Bromley is notorious for its Viking community – interrupts by loudly singing about the glories of Spam. When the waitress asks them to stop, they sing more loudly.

Should current initiatives fail, perhaps Python’s surrealist take could offer a fresh way of telling planning’s story? Because of course, the person who goes on to get this job in the real Bromley will be expected to enjoy the prospect of plan, plan, local plan, policy and plan.

“I’m a local resident. Have you got anything without plan in it?”

“Well, there’s plan, land, development proposal and plan. That hasn’t got much plan in it.”

“But I don’t want any plan! Look, could I have plan, retail space, housing development and plan without the plan?”


And so on…

Find out more and apply

Image credits | Justin H Moss, iStock; K B Wills, iStock; Denis Makarenko, Shutterstock; Oscar Johns, Shutterstock; Jodi Jacobson, Shutterstock