• Women in Planning

A day in the life of...

Emma Lancaster


Emma is a chartered town planner and a Director in Quod’s Leeds office. A former “Young Planner of the Year” (RTPI), since joining Quod she has used insight into the decision-making process gained in her early career years in local government to assist her clients in achieving their development and policy-related objectives. Emma advises a wide range of clients across the country, on a variety of planning matters. She has been lead planning consultant on a host of major residential, commercial, industrial and mixed-use developments and is responsible for providing planning advice from the pre-acquisition stage right through to delivery.




What does your typical working day look like?

​Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all Quod’s staff are working from home for the time being. Due to the Government’s efforts to delay the peak of the virus, which has resulted in the closure of schools, I also have my two children (10 and 7) at home with me 2-3 days a week. A “typical” working day therefore looks a little different for me right now than it did just 5 or 6 weeks ago!



My day starts…


6.00 am I switch on early and make a start to my day before the boys get up. I will check emails, review my to-do list and spend some time checking industry news sources, some of my favourite planning blogs, and reviewing any appeal decisions that might have been published. I usually get a couple of hours’ work in before breaking off to make breakfast for us all and setting my boys up for “corona-school”.



During work ...


9.00 am I have a Microsoft Teams meeting with my Leeds Co-Directors and the rest of our team. We use this as an opportunity to catch up with one another about project work but also check how we’re all doing in these strange times we find ourselves in. 10.00 am Much of the rest of the day is typically spent on calls or in meetings with clients and/or consultant teams; preparing or overseeing correspondence and/or reports for live projects my team and I are working on; and reviewing plans or documents prepared by technical consultants. Over the course of the day I might also provide some strategic advice to a client, prepare a fee proposal, or review invoices. 12.30 pm Around 12.30 the boys and I will all break for lunch. We’ll play some football or cricked in the garden if the weather is fine, or a quick game of cards if it is not. 15.30 pm Depending on my diary, the boys and I will usually try to head out mid-afternoon (when they finish school for the day) for our daily exercise, which is often a bike ride. 18.00 pm I’ll finish the day by writing a “to do list” for the next day and then switch off for the evening.



After work ...


I like to make a tasty dinner for us to enjoy as a family. We often cook together and we especially love making all types of curries and pasta dishes. We often do a Facetime call with my parents once we have finished eating.


On an evening ...


I relax with a good book or watch the latest Netflix drama.





How do you unwind on an evening or weekend? Prior to lockdown I’d often unwind on an evening by going to the gym or meeting up with friends for dinner, but evenings are a lot more sedate at the moment (unless I’m dragged into the garden to play ANOTHER game of football with the kids)! As a family we also really love to get outdoors and explore new places on a weekend. Since that’s not possible at the moment, we are currently making a “bucket list” of places we want to visit when lockdown is lifted and we’ve also been tuning in to some of the live feeds from national parks. What is your favourite/most rewarding project you have worked on? North West Bicester Eco-Town. This was one of the first projects I started working on when I came to Quod. My client’s mixed-use proposals for the business park that will provide in the order of 1,000 jobs for the new community at North West Bicester alongside around 150 new homes had just been refused. I twin-tracked a resubmission and an appeal, both of which were eventually approved. The locally granted consent was a useful fallback and through the appeal I was able to secure more favourable obligations and conditions. We’ve since had reserved matters approved for the first phase of the development and this is being delivered on-site. It is always rewarding to be able to turn a situation around for a client and then to see development being delivered, especially where it will unlock longer term strategic plans for an area like this scheme will. What are the best and worst bits about your job? I absolutely love what I do, so it’s hard to pick out one “best bit”. I am, however, privileged to work with some incredibly talented people, who are genuinely passionate about what they do. I also love that every day is (usually) different – I don’t often spend a lot of time at my desk, I get to meet lots of interesting people and travel. I would say the worst part of being a town planner is that we are often misunderstood (many don’t understand what we do) and, inevitably, not everyone is happy with the schemes that we promote on behalf of our clients. In terms of the latter, I like to think that Quod strike the right balance between achieving our clients’ commercial and strategic objectives whilst still creating fantastic places for people to live, work and play. Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why? One of my first line managers in a local government. He approached every part of his role with such enthusiasm and tenacity, and it was genuinely inspiring. He made me certain I had chosen the right career path. What is the best bit of advice you have received in your career? You can never be too prepared. What is your favourite place? Anywhere with my friends and family. If the sun is shining and we happen to be on a beach, that’s a big bonus though.


 
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