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The Friday Five 18.02.22

Published on: 18 Feb 2022


Location: Edinburgh/Flexible

The job: “RSPB Scotland is the country's largest nature conservation organisation and is active at all levels of the planning system, from developing and lobbying for new laws and national policies to engaging with hundreds of planning applications each year.

“We are looking for someone to lead our planning work, managing our small team of professional planners, providing advice to the network of RSPB staff across Scotland, leading on our engagement in major proposals and working right at the heart of Scotland's planning system, working with officials, Ministers and other senior planning system decision makers and influencers to ensure that planning policy and decisions in Scotland help tackle the nature and climate emergency.

“The role sits within RSPB Scotland’s conservation policy team, working closely with marine, land use, forestry, parliamentary and campaign colleagues to ensure that our planning work is integrated with other aspects of our land and seas work.”

Capercaillie [square]Fun fact: There are a number of bird species considered ‘iconic’ through their association with Scotland - you might think of the crested tit, for example, found only in Scotland within the UK; or white tailed eagle, Britain’s largest bird, which was successfully reintroduced to the UK via Scotland in the 1970s.

Then there is the grouse. Or, more specifically, the capercaillie, the largest of the grouse family which is found only in Scotland within the UK. Whereas red and black grouse are bred in huge numbers to be shot for sport on managed estates, the capercaillie is a wild species found only in native pinewood in northern Scotland, a rare and vulnerable habitat, or in commercial conifer plantations.

The bird did actually become extinct in Britain but was reintroduced in the mid 19th-century. However, the population has declined rapidly in recent years because of habitat loss, predation, climate change and deer management techniques that are inadvertently harmful, and there may be as few as 1,100 individuals remaining. It’s at risk of extinction again.

Yet it’s a fabulous bird. The largest of the grouse family, its name comes from the Gaelic capall-coile, meaning ‘ horse of the forest’. Males can grow to the size of a turkey and during the breeding season gather in groups known as ‘leks’ to put on flamboyant courtship displays. This involves pointing its wings down, flaring its tail and making a series of gurgling sounds, interspersed with a noise that sounds like a cork popping. 

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Location: Birmingham, Leeds or London

The job: “A unique opportunity to shape and lead a newly created planning division. This role will appeal to someone who thrives working in a highly complex and challenging environment.

“In recognition of the important role land-use planning has in supporting all the Department’s priorities, we have recently created a new consolidated planning division to lead on all aspects of strategic planning, casework and coordinating planning activity across all the Department’s modal teams. The team is made up of 50 staff currently split between London and Newcastle; however, in the future staff may also be based in DfT’s Birmingham or Leeds offices. 

“The new head will take forward the leadership and consolidation of this new team, ensuring that the Department’s interests are represented as Government undertakes an ambitious programme of planning reform, that planning decisions taken by the Secretary of State are made to time and legally robust, and that planning skills and expertise are developed across the Department.

“Leading a new team that brings together all the Department’s work on planning together in one place provides a massive opportunity for you to help shape and drive the role of planning in transport.”

Spaghetti Junction [square]Fun fact: Gravelly Hill Interchange, better known as the Spaghetti Junction, is one of the most complicated, baffling - and famous - road junctions in the UK, if not the world. Opened in 1972 as a junction to carry the M6 motorway through Birmingham where a number of local roads, railways lines, canals and even rivers met, it’s an astonishingly complex piece of engineering. 

In total, the junction covers 12 hectares, serves 18 routes and includes four kilometres of slip roads, but only one kilometre of the M6 itself. It has five levels, supported by 599 concrete columns that reach up to 84 metres in height. These had to be placed so as to allow a horse drawn canal boat to pass beneath the interchange without fouling the ropes. 

Overall, the engineers had to elevate 22km of motorway to accommodate two railway lines, three canals and two rivers.

The idea for the junction originated in 1958 (at the height of motorway fever) as a way of connecting the M6 with the A38 (M) and the A38 trunk road. As time passed, it became apparent that this was going to be no easy task. In 1965, journalists at the Birmingham Evening Mail coined the term ‘Spaghetti Junction’ when plans for the interchange were revealed. 

The name has since been applied to numerous other complex junctions around the world. It’s also the name of the student magazine of Birmingham City University.

Construction was given the green light in 1968 and was expected to take three years and cost £8 million. It opened in 1972 after a delay caused by safety concerns, at a cost of £10m. Given the way large infrastructure projects spiral out of control these days, that seems a bit of a result.

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Location: Dover, Kent

The job: “This is a new post within a newly restructured and expanding development management section that is needed to help address a significant increase in developer and inward investment interest within the district, realise Dover’s ambitions for high quality growth and regeneration and contribute to the Council’s strategy to mitigate climate change. 

“Reporting to the team leader (strategic sites and place), this post will play a key role in the newly established strategic sites team. Having a breadth of experience in processing major planning applications and negotiating S.106 agreements with minimal supervision, you will take responsibility for your own caseload and also contribute to a development team approach focused on processing pre-application enquiries and planning applications for the council’s strategic (plan allocation/project) sites.”

Dover Pharos [square]Fun fact: The Roman Pharos - lighthouse - at Dover Castle is the tallest and most complete standing Roman building in Britain and one of only three Roman lighthouses to have survived the last two millennia; the others are at Leptis Magna in Libya and La Coruña in Spain.

Standing 15 metres high and 12 metres across, the octagonal structure was sited at the top of a hill overlooking the English Channel at the point of the shortest crossing to France. It’s thought that the burning braziers lit as beacons at the top of the tower would have been visible to a similar lighthouse on the French coast, and vice versa. Certainly it would have been clearly visible to a twin structure on the Western Heights opposite, also in Dover.

It’s obviously a strategically significant place and would have been used to guide shipping into the harbour below - most likely the Classis Britannica, the fleet that patrolled the English channel and the North Sea and which was based at Dover from the early second century CE.

Nowadays the octagonal structure sits within the curtilage of medieval Dover Castle. At one time it would have functioned as a bell tower for the Anglo Saxon church built right next to it. In the 18th century (at the height of the Napoleonic threat) it served as a gunpowder store. The Dover Pharos was given a grade I listing in 1974.

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Location: Ormskirk, Lancashire

The job: “We are looking for a principal officer who, in addition to keeping the day to day service operating, is able to lead and build excellent services, developing a local plan for a brighter future. An agile working style is offered but strong leadership is a must. Excellent staff relations and working with elected members will be an advantage.

“The post holder will support the preparation of the local development scheme and local plan and housing development strategy and contribute to the development of other strategic planning and regeneration related strategies and policies (including conservation matters). The post holder will plan for future requirements of legislation, regulations, codes, etc, relevant to the service area, supporting the development of relevant strategies to ensure compliance and that the council’s best interests are met.”

A pair of jeans [square]Fun fact: When someone mentions jeans length, you may well think of trouser legs. However, Jeans Length is actually a cosmological calculation named after its discoverer, the physicist, mathematician and astronomer Sir James Hopwood Jeans. 

Jeans was born in Ormskirk in 1877. He was prodigiously gifted, studying maths at Cambridge, where he was elected a fellow of Trinity College in 1901. His career was stellar - quite literally; among his many contortions to physics, for example, was the theory of stellar evolution (which helps us understand how stars change over time).

One of his major discoveries was what is known as 'Jeans length' - and it has nothing to do with trousers. Rather it is, according to Wikipedia, "a critical radius of an interstellar cloud in space". An interstellar cloud that is smaller than its Jeans length will, apparently, not have the gravity needed to become a star; an interstellar cloud that is longer than its Jeans length will collapse (and become a star). In other words, Jeans length is the point at which gravity overcomes the forces that enable the cloud to expand and causes it to collapse. Phew.

Anyway, James Jeans is famous for this, among many other things, and even has a crater on the moon named after him. He died in 1946 and it's unlikely he ever wore a pair of jeans in his life.

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Location: Southampton, Hampshire

The job: “We are looking for an experienced planner, public health specialist or equivalent professional who can operate at a senior level and build credibility, whilst also influencing, identifying and realising opportunities to mainstream health throughout the planning functions appropriate for the council.

“In this role you will provide specialist support and technical advice to Southampton City Council on spatial planning for health issues, including leading on the health and wellbeing input to the new Southampton City Vision Local Plan to ensure it promotes effective planning and design for healthier places. 

“You will provide leadership and advocacy on spatial planning for health, build strong partnerships within and outside the Council to the benefit of public health outcomes, and utilise research evidence to inform the strategic planning team on how best to develop and influence policy. Working with the public health team to address the wider determinants of health, you will promote the reduction of health inequalities and meet the diverse needs and aspirations of communities across the life-course.”

King Canute [square]Fun fact: Some time in the early 11th century, the King Canute (or Cnut) is said to have stood on a shore somewhere in England and commanded the tide to recede. Of course, his instruction failed - but that was the point of the point. The vent - if it actually happened at all - is aid to have taken place at Southampton.

This would be no particular surprise, as Southampton was a main entry point into Wessex, the heart of Anglo-Saxon England and where the emerging capital city of Winchester could be found. Southampton had also been the site of major Viking incursions in the late 10th and early 11th centuries which led finally to a full invasion by the Danish prince Canute with 10,000 viking soldiers in 200 longships.

In 1017 Canute was accepted as king of England by the local nobility and reigned until his death in 1035. History remembers him as a ‘wise’ and ‘successful’ king of England, who united the new nation with Norway and Denmark to create the North Sea Empire.

The tale of ordering the tide to go back illustrates his wisdom. The story goes that he set his throne on the beach at Southampton and commanded the incoming sea to halt and not to wet his feet or robes. Of course, the endeavour couldn't possibly be successful, as Canute well knew. He simply wanted to illustrate to his flattering courtiers that the powers of a king are limited and not divine.

A number of other places claim to be the location of the supposed event, including Thorney Island in Westminster, London; Thonrey island in Chichester Harbour; Bosham; Gainsborough in Lincolnshire; and the Wirral. But let’s be clear - the story was first recorded in written form more than a century after it was supposed to have taken place. It more than likely didn’t actually happen. Sorry.

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Image credits | iStock; iStock; Vaflya, Shutterstock; Alena Mozhjer, Shutterstock; R P Baiao, Shutterstock