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The Friday Five 17.02.23

Published on: 17 Feb 2023

It’s the Friday Five, our weekly round-up of top planning jobs and fun place related facts. This week – LOADs of jobs, including a great one in Dublin; and LOADS of facts, including the story of St Valentine, the birth of vegetarianism and the improbable tale of a very small man from Oakham.


Location: Dublin

The job: “Dublin is a major European capital city and is the economic engine of the region and state. Dublin City Council seeks to enhance the city’s attraction as a place in which to invest, to work, to live and to visit. Dublin City Council takes the lead role in shaping the strategic vision of the city. It provides a diverse, multilayered and evolving range of services to both citizens and visitors to Dublin, which include the provision of housing, planning, employment, environmental, roads and traffic, leisure and community services.

“An opportunity now exists in Dublin City Council for the position of deputy city planning officer. The position is a crucial one in the city council and plays a vital role in the orderly development of the city. Reporting to the Dublin city planning officer, the post holder will lead and manage a team of professionals assigned to either land use policy or development management duties and will have specific delegatory responsibilities and functions.

“The ideal candidate will have:

  • a career record that demonstrates the necessary vision, leadership, management and interpersonal skills to lead staff in the delivery of a top quality planning service
  • a good awareness of the current political environment and an ability to work effectively with elected public representatives 
  • an ability to lead, co-ordinate and motivate a number of multi-disciplinary teams
  • a satisfactory knowledge of public administration in Ireland and experience of administration or management at a high level
  • an ability to lead, co-ordinate and motivate a number of multi-disciplinary teams.”

Entrance to Whitefriar Church [square]Fun fact: Here’s a timely one, given that Tuesday was 14 February: the relics of St Valentine – the St Valentine – are buried in a church in Dublin. The Shrine of St Valentine, in Whitefriar Street Church, contains a number of the saint’s bones and a vial of his blood, alongside a life-sized statue. Yes, the practice of keeping and displaying parts of the bodies of holy figures may be rather grotesque to a modern sensibility, but for most of human history it’s been relatively normal (your writer once saw the mummified remains of a nun on display in church in Italy, arranged as if she were just sitting reading a book. Actually, that can in no way be described as normal, at any time. It was just bizarre and macabre).

How the relics came to be in Dublin and how St Valentine came to be associated with romance are both interesting tales. Let’s start with the saint himself. Valentinus was a third-century Christian priest or bishop about whom nothing much is known with certainty. But there’s a tale that he tried to convert the Emperor Claudius to Christianity and was put to death; another that he defied an edict from Claudius outlawing marriage as it prevented young men from signing up to the Roman army. Valentinus apparently continued to conduct Christian marriage and was executed as a result. This latter story explains his association with love – but it’s most likely an invention of Middle Ages hagiographers.

Anyhow, his martyrdom is said to have taken place on February 14 269 AD (or CE if you prefer) which was also around the time that people in the Middle Ages believed that birds paired for mating (which has a degree of truth). Love is in the air, and all that.

As for the relics, bits of St Valentine are scattered all over the place. His flower-crowned skull is on display in a Roman basilica; the bulk of his remains are in Madrid, a gift from an 18th-century Pope to the Spanish king; the rest is in the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin. They were gifted in 1835 by a Roman Cardinal under the auspices of the Pope in recognition of a particularly striking sermon delivered by Very Reverend Father John Spratt, Master of Sacred Theology to the Carmelite order in Dublin.

Nowadays, couples visit the shrine on St Valentine’s day to pay homage to the bones and blood of a third-century priest which were given by one cleric to another as the result of a speech. So that’s all completely normal, then.

Find out more and apply


Location: North Devon

The jobs:

  • ​​Lead Officer (Development Management) 
  • Senior Planning Officer (x3) 
  • Planning Officer (full and part time applicants considered)
  • Graduate/Trainee Planning Officer (pro rata if applicable) (full and part time applicants considered)

“North Devon Council is looking to fill a number of posts which have been secured as part of corporate investment in its Development Management Team which has been identified as a central pillar to ensuring the prosperity of North Devon through well-facilitated place-making. You will play a vital role in shaping how we meet our growth objectives, ensuring that development is of the highest quality and is both sustainable and environmentally progressive, whilst looking after the exceptional and stunning environment of North Devon

“As a lead officer you will be involved in:

  • delivering corporate objectives across the DM team in collaboration 
  • mentoring and developing a team of planning officers
  • dealing with major planning applications and representing the department at planning committee and at appeal.

As a senior planning officer and planning officer, you will be involved in:

  • contributing to the growth of North Devon and the delivery of an ambitious local plan
  • dealing with major development proposals 
  • informing and guiding development from the outset 
  • representing the council at planning committee, in planning and enforcement appeals
  • mentoring other team members.”

Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway [square]Fun fact: Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, in North Devon, is both the world’s highest and steepest water-powered cliff railway in operation. It’s a fairly small niche, we imagine, and there’s probably not a whole lot of competition for these accolades, but it’s always worth shouting about these things.

And it is an amazing feat of engineering, which your writer can attest to through direct experience. Basically, what you have are two parallel railway lines on 58 per cent incline that separates the neighbouring villages of Lynton (top of the cliff) and Lynmouth, 150 metres below. Each line has a single carriage, and they are never in tandem – ie, one is always on the way up as the other is on the way down. This is because it’s the weight of the top one that pulls the bottom one up. 

How so? Well, when it reaches the top, a 3,000-litre tank beneath the carriage is filled with water pumped from the West Lyn River. The weight of the water (along with a thing called gravity) provides the motor for the whole operation. Once at the bottom, a brake is applied and when released the lower tank starts empties to the point where it’s light enough to be pulled up and the whole thing starts again. Unlike standard funicular railways, it requires no electricity to function and thus has an exceedingly low carbon footprint.

It’s a brilliant, gravity-driven railway that is an incredible feat of Victorian engineering. The railway was conceived as a way of boosting economic development of the two villages – the onerous journey from one to the other was extremely stifling to trade and the movement of goods and provisions.

The railway was built by hand (including the cliff cutting) and opened on Easter Monday 1890. It’s been in continuous use since. Each carriage can carry up to 40 passengers or equivalent freight (including cars at one time). It’s a greatly treasured piece of engineering and even the waiting rooms at the top and bottom of the railway are grade II listed.

Find out more and apply


Location: Richmond and Wandsworth, London

The jobs: “Wandsworth and Richmond Councils have exciting opportunities within the spatial and transport planning service, administering CIL and S106. We are recruiting to fill a number of roles in our growing team.

“The principal CIL and S106 officer will act as a professional expert working on high profile development casework across both boroughs, providing comprehensive professional advice to colleagues and senior managers and liaising with developers and residents. You will lead, coach and motivate the team in both CIL and S106 matters, supervising the team’s work programme and providing support to senior CIL and S106 officers.

“The senior CIL and S106 officer will work on a range of case work from householder applications to high profile developments across both boroughs, providing comprehensive professional advice to colleagues and senior managers, and liaising with developers and residents. You will have responsibility for ensuring the council complies with legislative requirements in administering and collecting CIL and monitoring S106 planning obligations.

“The CIL and S106 officer will work on a wide range of casework, including householder applications and major developments, providing CIL and S106 advice to colleagues within the councils, while engaging with residents and developers to ensure compliance with the CIL requirements.”

Brown trout [square]Fun fact: Salmon. Swans, otters, eels and herons, too. These are the beasties whose names are inscribed on another unusual piece of water-related engineering, this time in the River Wandle in Wandsworth. It’s a tidal bell at Bell Lane Creek – a bell supported by a concrete arch upon which are inscribed the names of the creatures that were once common along the river (we’ll come to that). At one time the bell was hooked up to a tidal-powered electricity generator which triggered the bell to toll four times a day at high tide.

It tolls no more. And no more salmon and otters – both at one time common in the river – are seen in the Wandle. It remains a hotspot for eels and your writer can attest to the presence of numerous swans and herons. But this beautiful chalk stream river became so dirty and polluted by industry and bits and bobs of the river were so remodelled that it became next to impossible for salmon, for example, to reach their spawning grounds. Many of its other species also disappeared or went into dreadful decline.

Recent efforts to clean up the river, which is a rare habitat type, and restore it to its original condition have borne fruit. It was once famed for its brown trout and they are now once again a common site, and the river has become a magnet for fly fishers, some of whom claim also to have seen salmon in its waters. Could it possibly be? It also has thriving stocks of chub, roach, dace and even barbel (an angler’s favourite). 

It’s entirely possible that salmon will reappear in the Wandle at some point, given that it flows into The Thames, where salmon can once again be seen. Otters, though? Unlikely, given the extent of development around the Wandle, but you never know…

Find out more and apply


Location: Manchester (Town Hall extension)

The jobs: “The Manchester planning service – a high profile service within the city council, is looking for town planners to play a key role in the ongoing regeneration and growth of the city. Can you bring us the technical knowledge, experience, agility and innovation we need to achieve this?

“These opportunities play a key role in ensuring that development management, heritage and urban design and compliance shape this dynamic modern city. We are looking for talented, ambitious planners, who are committed to Manchester, and its vision, in order to realise outcomes for our residents, businesses and visitors.

“Candidates would help ensure that new developments are in line with Council priorities to be an equitable, sustainable, highly skilled and connected city, ensuring the highest standard of design and conservation together with meeting Manchester’s ambitious target of being a Zero Carbon City by 2038 and ensuring that breaches of planning control are investigated and appropriate action pursued.”

Hands catching fruit [square]Fun fact: Manchester – or more accurately, Salford – Manchester can make a reasonable claim to be the birthplace of the modern concept of vegetarianism. It was here that, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the remarkable Reverend William Cowherd formulated a doctrine of vegetarianism and preached it to his flock.

He was the founder of the Bible Christian Church, which operated out of the Beefsteak Chapel and which became known as the first vegetarian church in the Christian faith. Cowherd (is that a kind of inverse nominative determinism?) encouraged his followers, the ‘Cowherdites’ to abstain from eating meat as a form of temperance – he believed that God inhabited every animal and so eating meat was a sin. 

Although he died in 1816, his ideas developed currency and fuelled the formation of the Vegetarian Society in 1847, which still exists. Cowherd was also noted for his civic endeavours and his chapel became a working-class institution: it was a school, a science academy, a lending library and even had its own printing press. Beyond this, Cowherd and his congregation provided free medical treatment and soup (vegetable, of course) to locals.

By the end of the 19th century, vegetarianism was apparently on the up, with some 52 vegetarian restaurants in Britain. And with contemporary debates about the value of adopting a meat-free or at least a low-meat diet, Cowherd’s legacy lives on.

Find out more and apply


Location: Oakham, Rutland

The job: “The principal planning officer will provide professional and technical support as part of a comprehensive, customer-orientated planning service focused on achieving Rutland County Council’s priorities, as well as working in partnership across Rutland, the region, and the local enterprise partnership area. 

“Other duties include:

  • Support the development manager in ensuring that all national and local performance targets for the operation of the council’s development management service are met
  • Provide advice and deal with planning enquiries
  • Act as a case officer for larger / complex applications
  • Preparing statements for planning appeals and presenting evidence at hearings and public inquiries
  • Supervise staff
  • Deputise for the development manager in their absence.”

Sir Jeffrey Hudson [square]Fun fact: The chances are you’ve not heard of the most remarkable person to have come out of the village of Oakham in Rutland, but his story is well worth telling – not least because it’s so unlikely and entertaining. Indeed, Sir Jeffrey Hudson’s life has all the elements of an 18th-century picaresque novel – and it’s all true.

For Sir Jeffrey Hudson was the Court Dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria of France: he fought in the English Civil War; he was captured and held as a slave for a quarter of a century; and he killed a man in a duel. And he was just 45 centimetres (18 inches) tall.

It was unusual smallness, allied with perfectly proportions, that provided the spur for his extraordinary life. He was born in Oakham in 1619 to a father who was the keeper of the bulls for baiting belonging to the local aristocrat, the Duke of Buckingham. In 1626, young Jeffrey was apparently presented to the Duchess of Buckingham as a ‘rarity of nature’ and she invited him to join her household.

Shortly after, the Duke and Duchess entertained King Charles and his young French wife Queen Henrietta Maria. Jeffrey was the centrepiece of the entertainment and was served to the guests at the climax of the meal in a giant pie. When the pie was placed in front of the queen, Jeffrey burst from its crust and much jollity ensued – so much so, that the Buckinghams gave Jeffrey to the king and queen as an amusing gift. As you do.

According to Wikipedia, he lived in the royal household as one of several “natural curiosities and pets”. He provided comical entertainment, appeared in masques, learned to ride and shoot, and became quite a celebrated figure. When the Civil War broke out in England he was appointed a Captain of Horse and may have seen battle; in time he fled to France with his queen.
It was here that he killed a man in a duel. It’s thought that Hudson took offence, understandably, at a French courtier treating him as an object of entertainment. He challenged the man to a duel. His opponent, thinking the whole thing was a tremendous jape, arrived bearing a gigantic water pistol. Hudson, with an actual gun, shot him straight through the forehead. He was sent back to England as a result of the furore.

In 1644 he was on board a ship captured by Barbary pirates and he spent the next 25 years, it’s thought, labouring as a slave in North Africa. In 1669 he was back in Oakham, where his life story was recorded. He then appears to have been imprisoned for a time for being a Catholic. He died around 1682 and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.

Find out more and apply

Image credits | Noel Bennett, Shutterstock; Peter titmuss, Shutterstock; iStock; iStock; iStock