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The Friday Five 23.06.23

Published on: 23 Jun 2023

A round-up of five of the best town planning jobs on Planner Jobs this week. Plus some fun place-based facts. This week, great town planning jobs in Ashford, North Yorkshire, Tunbridge Wells, Nottinghamshire and West Lindsay. And some daft facts about the origin of 'Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells' and England's shortest reigning monarch.


Location: Ashford, Kent

The job: "Ashford’s planning and development service has a long and proud record of driving high-quality place-making. This is strongly supported by elected members and is acknowledged as an essential component in the delivery of successful development and growth. 

"Our strategic applications team deals with a range of high-profile schemes from large greenfield residential and mixed-use proposals to town centre regeneration schemes and large solar farm proposals which all draw on a full range of planning and design skills. The team also plays the leading role in the planning and delivery of the South of Ashford Garden Community – an urban extension of over 7,000 new dwellings alongside a new strategic park, new schools and health facilities.

"You will be supporting the two team leaders in their roles and acting as case officer for a range of major development proposals. You will be confident in dealing with complex or challenging schemes and be able to show how you add value to a proposal by using your design and place-making skills in different contexts."

White line on tarmac [square]Fun fact: Roads. We all know what they look like, right? A strip of asphalt or tarmac, with ones demarcated by white painted lines so we know where we’re supposed to be on the road.

It wasn’t always thus, though – in fact, the first white lines in the UK didn't appear until 1914 – in Ashford, Kent. They were painted on to a number of hazardous bends along the A20 between London and Folkestone, their function being to demarcate the edge of the road rather than to mark out lanes.

Over the ensuing decade or so, as motoring became more popular and cars faster and more dangerous, white lines became a feature on many of the nation’s roads. But it wasn’t until 1926 that the Ministry of Transport drew up guidelines that standardised how lines should appear on roads and what they should signify.

In so doing, they established rules that apply today, almost a century later: a broken white line in the direction of travel indicated the centre of the road. If the gaps were LONGER than the painted lines, it indicated that there were no hazards such as turnings or sharp bends ahead. If the gaps were SHORTER than the painted lines, this indicated a hazard ahead, such as a sharp bend. 

The use of white lines developed in the following decades. Soon they indicated that drivers should stop at junctions; they marked out the road boundary and the no man’s land between carriageways and lay-bys, making it safer for people to walk along roads. 

In the 1950s, as traffic increased yet more, along with its attendant problems such as congestion, yellow lines appeared to indicate restrictions on parking or waiting.

These rules remain the same today. The use of road markings became more common during the 1930s, with white lines used as ‘stop’ lines at junctions. Then double white lines to limit overtaking as cars became faster again, and yellow boxes at busy junctions. 

The safety purpose of all of these is pretty obvious. But more recently there have been experiments, in places where there are a lot of pedestrians, for example, with totally removing road markings as a way of getting drivers to concentrate on what's around them rather than simply to do what the lines tell them to.

Of course, if we had more low-traffic neighbourhoods, we wouldn’t need lines at all... (hides under table).

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Location: Selby, Richmond, Scarborough, Malton, Northallerton, Skipton and Harrogate/Home

The job: "This is an extremely exciting time to join us as we move forward as the new North Yorkshire Council. Our all-new planning service is at the heart of change and development within communities across our vast and varied geography, making it one of the largest planning services in the country. We will tackle diverse projects from domestic through to national infrastructure – offering opportunities for staff to develop expertise and contribute to projects that shape our area. If you are ambitious about your future in planning this is a great time to join us as we invest in building a world class planning service, whilst being community focussed on a local level.

"The role involves the provision of planning advice and managing a caseload of planning applications and related consents, including complex and major planning applications and appeals submitted under the Town and Country Planning Acts and other related legislation. In addition to attending Planning Committees and other relevant groups to present agenda items and represent the service. 

"The post holder will help to deliver a proactive, customer-focused and compliant ‘end-to-end’ development management service that meets statutory requirements. Including contributing to the delivery of excellent performance and customer service, planned outcomes, targets and objectives and continuous improvement."

Archaeological dig site [square]Fun fact: Star Carr just outside Scarborough in North Yorkshire, is the location of the oldest house in Britain discovered to date and one of the oldest in Europe. I'm not talking about something medieval or Roman or even Celtic. You've got to go back much, much further than that.

The circular structure discovered in 2010 has, in fact, been dated to 8,500 BCE (or BC if you prefer). Alongside evidence of the Stone Age roundhouse, archaeologists have also recovered the detritus of the everyday lives of the inhabitants of Mesolithic Britain: jewellery, carpentry, a hunting bow and even, incredibly, part of a red deer skull with antlers used as a mask that would probably have served a ritual purpose.

8,500 BCE was a relatively warm period between glaciations, a time that offered a window for people to cross the land bridge from Europe and set up home in the peninsula that is now Britain. 

The house – a typical Mesolithic roundhouse – would have had a diameter of about 3.5 metres. Several more were uncovered during the 11-year dig from 2004 to 2015. Other finds include long planks laid at the edge of a former lake which are the earliest examples in Europe of carpentry. Despite their discoveries – which sadly don’t include any human bones – archaeologists think they have only searched about 5 per cent of the total inhabited site.

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Location: Tunbridge Wells, Kent

The job: "Kember Loudon Williams is a well-known and respected planning consultancy located in an attractive location, just south of Tunbridge Wells.

"If you are looking to progress your career and to join a friendly, supportive and forward thinking team then it would be great to hear from you. This is an exciting time for the company as we look to build on our strengths with a view to future expansion.

"We have a diverse range of clients including national and regional house builders, corporate entities, private estate owners and a range of public sector clients including county, borough and town councils. As a valued member of our team, we would like to involve you in the preparation of planning applications and appeals, project management, the creation of masterplans and development strategies, the promotion of land for development, public consultations and exhibitions and a whole host of development and land related projects.

"We are looking to recruit commercially aware, qualified planners with a range of experience to help grow the practice and to play a central role in maintaining our excellent client relationships and high levels of service. There is excellent scope for career progression in a friendly office environment. We will offer a competitive salary and benefits package to reflect your experience and qualifications."

Folded newspapers [square]Fun fact: ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ – a mainstay for British comedy for decades, the imaginary retired colonel outraged by some newfangled notion who feels compelled to complain in the most colourful and outraged terms to the local newspaper or whoever else will listen.

But where did this stereotype originate? When did he (it’s always, we assume, a he) first appear in print? And why Tunbridge Wells?

Here’s a quick summary of the thinking on this very important question.

Tunbridge Wells has long been associated with a kind of stuffy reactionary temperament (in the same way that Surbiton, for example, is associated with blandly aspirational suburbia). Wikipedia tells us that the novelist E M Forster in A Room With a View (1908) had one of his characters observe that in Tunbridge Wells “we are all hopelessly behind the time”.

It’s been reported that the 1940s satirical BBC radio show Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh may have popularised the phrase ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ in imaginary letters to newspapers. Another claim has it that there was an actual regular writer to The Times in the early 20th century who signed himself ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’. Some even claim to have identified this writer as a retired British Army colonel who served in the British Raj. 

Another story goes that the name began with the reporters of the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser who, it is said, were told to write fake letters to the newspaper to fill what would otherwise be fairly threadbare letters pages. They developed a convention of writing these letters in a colourful, outraged style and signing them ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’.

Whatever, it's become a satirical byword for a certain type of Middle Englander and the attitudes we assume that carry with them. Private Eye has used it as standard for years and it’s become something of a platitude now. 

You might think the good folk of Tunbridge Wells would be pleased to see such a mocking depiction fall out of use. However, there appears to be a certain perverse pride in the label – when some residents started a campaign against the stereotype in the the 2000s and tried to encourage people to adopt the anodyne ‘Delighted of Tunbridge Wells’ instead, they were met with fairly strong opposition. This opposition mostly took the form of letters to the local newspaper, signed ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’... of course!

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Location: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

The job: "Are you looking for a challenging and wide ranging role in development management to start your planning career and help drive environmental improvement across Nottinghamshire?  The county council is looking for a graduate or someone who is about to complete a degree in planning, geography, geology, environmental sciences, or other related subjects.

"Nottinghamshire’s visions and ambitions include providing 'a healthy, prosperous and greener future for everyone'. Do you want to play a part in achieving these goals and help reduce the impact on climate change? Our work helps deliver biodiversity gains, encourages recycling and promotes sustainable development.

"You will manage a varied caseload of planning applications for a range of developments which the county council has the responsibility to determine as the minerals, waste and county planning authority. You will also undertake monitoring inspections to ensure developments granted planning permission by the county council are built out and operating in compliance with the permissions, and also help deal with complaints relating to breaches of planning control, including assisting with investigation and any follow-up action.  There are also opportunities to do work across with wider planning group.

"You will work in a small supportive team with help and guidance from experienced officers and there is potential funding for post-graduate studies."

Historic shin pads [square]Fun fact: Back in the day, it was considered perfectly legitimate to ‘hack’ your opponent during a game of football; that is, to kick them in the shin to dispossess them of the ball. Indeed, it was understood as a rule in some of the early versions of the game that were played at public schools such as Eton, Rugby and Harrow, and the University of Cambridge – where the first recorded written rules of football are thought to have been created.

There was even a kind of etiquette about it, apparently: it was acceptable to kick your opponent's shin (if any of you have played football and taken a good crack on the shin you know exactly how painful this can be), but not to use your heel when doing so or to kick above the knee.

As the rules of the game developed and became standardised, hacking became one of two major points of contention, along with whether you should be allowed to carry the ball in your hands and to what extent. Indeed, both hacking and carrying were included in the first draft of the first set of rules drawn up by the nascent Football Association in the early 1860s.

Both were dropped, to outrage from many of the clubs, a good number of whom split from the FA. One representative of London clubs is said to have spluttered, in true jingoistic style: “If you wanted to invent a game like that even Frenchmen could come over and beat us.”

Heaven forfend that the French should beat us at OUR game!

Anyway, hacking was banned but, of course, it still went on. And, in 1874, in desperation, a certain Nottingham Forest player, who also played cricket for Nottinghamshire, cut down a pair of cricket pads and strapped them outside his stockings for protection. 

And lo, Sam Weller Widdowson had invented the shin pad. Initially, he was ridiculed but his idea soon caught on – why wouldn't it? Being kicked in the shins hurts. Nowadays, of course, it's compulsory to wear shin pads in football, but it took 116 years to get to this point. Until 1990 it was entirely optional, though virtually all players did wear them.

As for Sam Widdowson, he went on to become a football referee and was in charge of the first game where another innovation came into use – the goal net. For five years from 1879 to 1884 he was also chairman of Nottingham Forest FC. 

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Location: Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

The job: "West Lindsey is one of the largest districts in England, covering 1,156km2 and with a population of  around 95,500 people. We are a predominantly rural district, with an administrative centre in  Gainsborough on the River Trent, and the historic market towns of Market Rasen and Caistor to  the east, nestling into the Lincolnshire Wolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  

"A fantastic opportunity is now available to join the council’s development management team, in  a key leading role. The development management team leader will manage a case load of  strategic and high-profile planning applications within the district. They will provide leadership to  a team of dedicated place-based professionals and planning officers.  

"Working within a team that consistently achieves outstanding performance, you will be at the  forefront of delivering an ambitious growth programme through the newly adopted Central  Lincolnshire Local Plan. The new Local Plan sets out a housing strategy capable of meeting our  needs until 2040 and includes ground-breaking energy policies aimed at making Central Lincolnshire net zero carbon." 

Viking warrior [square]

Fun fact: Ah, Sweyn Forkbeard. You know Sweyn, right? Glorious Viking conqueror and King of Denmark, Norway and England - for five weeks, at least. Yup, he was England's shortest reigning monarch. Having seized the throne in December 1013 after a long and wearing campaign, he popped his clogs on 4 February 1014 - and no-one quite knows how. 

Some say he was murdered (which would be understandable, given his violent history); others that he fell off his horse (which is just careless). In any case, he died. But not before he made Gainsborough his capital city. Yup, Gainsborough was once the capital of England (albeit briefly).

This may seem an odd choice but it makes sense in the context of a king whose sphere of influence was the North Sea region; and also when you consider that Gainsborough was already a regional capital in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. 

And though Sweyn was rather unfortunate in dying at just 50 shortly after the culmination of what one might consider a grand ambition - to rule three of the mighty North Sea kingdoms - he did leave something of a legacy. His son Cnut the Great reigned over Denmark, Norway and England for several decades and was generally considered to have been a  good king (at a time when being a good king meant being as much warrior as politician).

He also famously attempted to turn back the tide as s demonstration of the limits of earthly power, and it's thought this may have taken place at Gainsborough. 

Nowadays, the former Viking capital is a peaceable place a peaceable place - a small market town and inland port with a deep sense of history. It was also the setting for George Eliot's Mill on the Floss where it was recast as St Ogg's, "that venerable town with the red fluted roofs and the broad warehouse gables, where the black ships unlade themselves of their burthens from the far north". And no Vikings.

Find out more and apply

Image credits | iStock; zichrini, Shutterstock; qvist, Shutterstock; iStock; iStock