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The Friday Five 27.05.22

Published on: 27 May 2022


Location: Horsham, West Sussex

The job: “An exciting and ground-breaking opportunity has arisen to support a group of five local authorities to deliver water neutral local plans and unlock development and economic growth which is currently stalled. This will ensure that new development that takes place does not increase the demand for drinking water in this part of Sussex and which will contribute towards planning decisions that shape the future environment of the area.

“Chichester District Council, Crawley Borough Council, Horsham District Council, the South Downs National Park and West Sussex County Council are looking for a talented, self-motivated and enthusiastic individual to provide project management support to produce and deliver a ‘Water Neutrality Mitigation Strategy’.  The post will be based at Horsham District Council.

“Your challenge will be to co-ordinate the ongoing work of consultants, local authorities, Southern Water, Natural England and others, securing the necessary agreements, governance and additional resourcing required to produce and implement the strategy.

“To succeed in this role, you will need proven relevant qualifications and understanding of land use planning and water resource issues, excellent project management skills, and the ability to develop and maintain professional relationships at all levels.”

Hailstones [square]Fun fact: The heaviest hailstone officially recorded in Britain fell at Horsham on 5 September 1958 and weighed an astonishing 190 grams. It’s not thought to be the heaviest ever fallen in Britain, though. For example, during the ‘great Somerset hailstorm’ of 15 July 1908, stones of up to 220g were reported.

The Horsham storm was measured as H7 on the hailstorm scale. This is a measurement of severity formulated by the wonderfully named Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO – which has a brilliant website if you’re into extreme weather). 

The scale ranges “extends from H0 to H10 with its increments of intensity or damage potential related to hail size (distribution and maximum), texture, numbers, fall speed, speed of storm translation, and strength of the accompanying wind”. So it’s more sophisticated than you might think.

But it’s explained simply: basically, H0 is “hard hail” causing “no damage”. H10 is a “super hailstorm” causing “extensive structural damage” with “risk of severe or even fatal injuries to persons caught in the open”.

According to TORRO, H10s are unheard of in Britain, but a single H8 storm (“Destructive. Severe damage to aircraft bodywork.”) was recorded on 15 May 1697 (obviously, there were no aircraft to smash up at that time). At Offley, near Hitchin in Hertfordshire, hailstones were measured at a gargantuan 343mm circumference with some anecdotal reports indicating 445mm. To place this in a more understandable context – Friday Five’s very own ‘sports ball scale’ –  343mm is a bit smaller than a squash ball; 445mm is a bit bigger than a golf ball. Meanwhile, 190g (the Wycombe hailstone) is a bit heavier than a pool ball. 

That would probably explain why, during the Offley H8 storm, “the ground was torn up, and great oak trees were split. Tiles and windows of houses were all shattered to pieces. At least one human fatality was attributed to the hail, a young shepherd.”

Hail’s a killer. You have been warned.

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Location: Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

The job: “We need a keen and ambitious person who needs to be able to manage their own workload of major housing and commercial applications and help to ensure we strive to improve in our customer focus. We want you to join a friendly and committed team and are looking for a person who can use their own initiative and take responsibility. 

“It is essential that you have knowledge and experience of development management, good negotiation, a strong customer focus, experience of supervising staff and dealing with strategic and major planning applications. 

“Gateshead has an excellent reputation as a local planning authority. Major developments are transforming the borough and as senior planning officer you will have a key role to play in influencing the future.”

Saltwell Towers [square]Fun fact: Gateshead is home to one of the most extraordinary homes built at the height of the Victorian Gothic revival – Saltwell Towers, which is at the heart of the multiple award-winning Saltwell Park. 

The grade II listed Saltwell Towers is described picturesquely by the Victorian Society as an “eccentric castle style with lively turreted roofscape… using engineering bricks of dark red, with black bands and light buff details. The general impression is part-Gothic, with corner turrets and crenellated parapets; and part-Tudor, with large windows and chimneys, bays, polychromy, decorative friezes, and heraldic shields.”

It is, you might say, a rather extravagant thing. But its roots are in some way as colourful as the building itself. It was designed to the wishes of William Wailes, a Gateshead-based stained glass-maker of considerable repute whose work adorns Chichester and Gloucester Cathedrals as well as too many churches to mention (except perhaps the Afghan Church in Mumbai). 

Wailes, born in neighbouring Newcastle in 1808, started his business life as a grocer and tea merchant. But his artistic bent was too hard to resist and he installed a kiln on his premises in which he fired small decorative enamels that he sold through the shop. In 1830, he jacked in the merchant life and travelled to Germany to study stained glass design and production under Mayer of Munich. 

In 1838 he set up his own stained glass studio – bear in mind that Newcastle was England’s centre of domestic glass and bottled manufacturing. Business boomed and before too long Wailes’s workshop was one of England’s largest and most prolific. He became wealthy, bought the Saltwellgate Estate and between 1854 and 1862 had the marvellous Saltwell Towers constructed. Unfortunately, the building was so extravagant it consumed Wailes’s wealth and, in 1876, he sold it to Gateshead Council for £35,000 on a leaseback arrangement.

The council opened up the estate as a public park that became known as ‘The People's Park’ and has provided leisure and recreation for the good folk of Gateshead ever since.

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Location: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

The job: “Arrow Planning Ltd is a fast growing planning consultancy with more than 40 years’ experience within the public and private sectors.

“Team Arrow is a small, growing, relaxed team with a friendly atmosphere and a shared vision to bring forward positive growth in our communities. We work on a wide range of projects, with a particular focus on strategic development schemes which require a holistic and multi-disciplinary environment to assess, promote and deliver high quality developments.

“Our work ranges from residential and commercial to renewable energy, minerals and waste and healthcare. We have an exciting opportunity to join our growing team for an experienced senior/principal town planner with 5-10 years’ experience ideally within both private and public sectors. 

“You would be working on a variety of projects to support the team and work alongside our co-consultants to advise clients on the promotion of development schemes through local plans and planning applications.”

Scales [square]Fun fact: Each year, the town of Wycombe weighs its mayor on a giant weighing scale, in public. Yes, you read that correctly.

Apparently, it’s a tradition that can be traced back to the Middle Ages and its intention was to determine whether the town’s mayor had grown fat on the public purse during his latest year in office. Each year the mayor and other officials on the town corporation would be weighed at the beginning and end of their annual term of office.

If no weight was recorded as having been gained, the town crier would shout: “And no more!”. If weight had been gained, the crier would call out: “And some more!”, whereupon the gathered citizenry would boo and hurl rotten fruit at the poor person sitting on the scale.

Although it was profoundly undignified, you can see how it might cause people to think twice about misusing public money for personal benefit (a lesson some of our current cohort of politicians might do well to learn).

Over time, the custom faded away, but was revived in 1999 as a “bit of fun” that now involves councillors and even the local MP (Steve Baker of the Conservative Party, since you ask). Apparently, there’s no longer fruit-throwing. Now, that would be fun.

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Location: Central London (with some home working)

The job: “This role will place you at the heart of the planning agenda. You’ll be working to influence the legislation, policies and practices needed to create places which are economically productive, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. It offers a diverse range of opportunities: from advising government on policy, representing the RTPI at conferences, and training planners and other professionals. In doing so, you’ll meet with, learn from and have the opportunity to influence the top experts in planning and the built environment, from major consultancies, public sector, academia and the civil service.

“You will be a chartered town planner with recent experience of working in the planning system in England, ready to provide expert advice to the RTPI on planning policy in England and work on our engagement with UK Government and other stakeholders in the sector.

“This role provides fantastic opportunities to develop your career in planning and policy-making. You will be an advocate for the planning profession generally and the role of professional planners. Experience of working in a fast-paced environment and line management of professional staff would be an advantage.”

Dr Wei Yang [square]Fun fact: Unlike the World Cup or Olympics, the RTPI presidency stops for nothing – war, famine, pandemic, you name it, the presidency keeps rolling on, as reliably as time or the stars themselves. Since the institute’s founding 108 years ago in 1914, there has been an unbroken chain of 108 presidents to have worn the prestigious chain of office.

They are all brilliant people, of course, but some have been seriously heavy hitters in the planning world. Take the RTPI’s first president, Thomas Adams. From 1903-06 he was the first manager of Letchworth Garden City and, after co-founding the RTPI, became director of the regional plan for New York City.

Adams was succeeded by Raymond Ubwin, also an early town planning pioneer, who popularised the Arts and Crafts Movement in housing, co-designed Letchworth, planned model villages and had a massive influence on inter-war public housing. Oh, he was also consulted by the US’s President Roosevelt on the 1933 New Deal.

In 1925 there was Sir Patrick Abercrombie, who basically replanned post-war London (and much, much more). There was Sir George Lionel Pepler, who uniquely served two terms, 30 years apart, in 1919 and 1949; he was largely responsible for preparing the revolutionary Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. In 1966 there was Nathaniel Lichfield, who played a key role in the development of post-war new towns and founded the consultancy now known as Lichfields.

In 1974 Sylvia Law became the first woman to wear the presidential chain. She started her working life as a teacher, but went on to become a significant figure not just for being a woman in a high position but for her work on delivering public open space in London.

The most recent female president, Wei Yang (pictured), is noted for her influential work on sustainable 21st garden cities in the UK and China. The current president is Timothy Crawshaw, whose belief that planning can shape responses to climate change and nature recovery sees him chairing the Tees Valley Nature Partnership and sitting on the steering group for the North East of England Climate Coalition. 

For all the variety, the presidents offer a snapshot of the dominant concerns of planning – and wider society – during their time in office. You can read a full list on the RTPI’s Wikipedia page.

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Location: Orkney Islands

The job: “Orkney is a beautiful setting to both work and live with internationally acclaimed natural and cultural environments, and vibrant communities. Orkney is regularly voted as the happiest and best place to live in the UK. This role provides an opportunity to enhance these communities and places.

“Orkney Islands Council is commencing the review of the Orkney Local Development Plan under the new requirements set in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. We require a graduate planner with GIS knowledge and skill set to assist in the production of our new plan and supporting documentation.

“Within the development and marine planning team at the council, you will be able to work and gain experience of a range of planning topics and development planning processes to commence your planning career and we will support your professional development.”

North Ronaldsay Sheep [square]Fun fact: Each August, Orkney holds Sheepfest, ostensibly a two-week celebration of the North Ronaldsay Sheep, a variety found only on the island of North Ronaldsay.

Sheepfest describes itself as a “volunteer-led, conservation fortnight that takes place on the Island of North Ronaldsay in Orkney with the aim of rebuilding and repairing the island’s drystone Sheep Dyke, protecting its flock of native seaweed-eating sheep, and celebrating the island’s distinct culture and tradition through music, art and education”.

So what’s so special about these sheep and the dyke that protects them? To understand that, you need to understand that there are dozens of different types of sheep with different characteristics and suited to different habitats (and they can look very different, too). 

Some, like the North Ronaldsay Sheep, are unique and found only in one place. This particular breed is Neolithic (4300 to 2000 BCE) and is small, hardy and short-tailed – ideally suited to life at the outer reaches of a northerly island chain. Unusually, the sheep are managed under a communal shepherding system and confined to the seashore by the aforementioned drystone dyke that encircles the island (a response to farming changes in the 19th century). They also exist exclusively on seaweed.

The sheep are pretty integral to the island’s economy and culture. Certain events in the shepherding calendar are deeply communal, such as sheep shearing in summer, selecting for market in January and headcounting in February.

And then there’s Sheepfest, which has become a wider celebration of island culture and the traditional skills and arts that support it. This year’s Sheepfest will take place from 1-12 August.

Find out more and apply

Photo credits | iStock; iStock; N ON NE ON, Shutterstock; RTPI; PJ Photography, Shutterstock