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Day in the life of ...

Sue Manns

Sue is President of the Royal Town Planning Institute 2020 and a Fellow of the Institute. She has 40 years’ experience of working in planning, with roles that span the public, private and voluntary sectors, at national, regional and local levels. She also worked in academia as a senior lecturer in planning law and practice. Sue has wide experience of partnership working, has contributed to a range of influential reports and studies, given evidence to public inquiry/ public examination/ scrutiny and Select Committee on a range of planning and community engagement related issues and has been a member of a number of government Steering Groups. The golden thread that runs throughout Sue’s career is her passion for equality, diversity, inclusivity – both within the profession and through best practice community engagement. In 2018 Sue established her own independent consultancy specialising in planning and community engagement advice and is also a visiting lecturer at Birmingham University.  

What does your typical working day look like? A typical day would see me working 7 days a week juggling the provision of specialist advice to a range of clients, running training and consultation events, alongside my role as RTPI President for 2020. However, life is now far from normal, so what I describe below is life under COVID 19 restrictions. My day starts…

07.00 Coffee and breakfast whilst catching up on the news, Linked In and Twitter messages During work ...

08.00 – 18.00 Working from home means staying in touch with clients and the RTPI via phone, email and web-based meetings. These alternatives are working surprisingly well and are enabling business to continue much as normal. After work ...

An earlier finish than pre COVID 19, but it is important to shut down the computer and close the ‘home office’. On an evening ...

Time for some exercise - a quick local walk or run - before catching up with friends and family via Skype and What’s App. Also a great time to connect with RTPI members via Linked In (please connect with me if you haven’t already done so).

How do you unwind on an evening or weekend? During the week my evenings are quite short and normal weekends would see me out on our fabulous hills, moorland and mountains. For the next few weeks however, my focus will be on taking a short daily walk / run and sorting out the garden (now that really is a project!). What is your favourite/most rewarding project you have worked on? No doubt – it is being RTPI President for 2020. The first few weeks were an amazing experience and whilst all visits have been suspended until 31 August, I am already looking at alternative ways to make a difference. What are the best and worst bits about your job? The best bits are undoubtedly seeing diverse talent coming through and making a real difference.   The worst bits – the fact that as a profession we still do not reflect the diversity of society that we plan for and that when we undertake community engagement the respondent profile rarely reflects the diversity of the local area. We need to do better on both counts. Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why? This is a challenging question, as so many people have had a positive influence on my life and in so many different ways. However, I would like to share the names of two planners who made a huge impact on me. Sadly, both have recently passed away, both were Fellows of the RTPI and both were awarded OBEs; they are Graham Shaylor and Corinne Swain. Corinne Swain was simply inspiring in the way she worked, her professionalism, intellect, warmth and her support for others, especially women.  I first met Corinne when she was examining the West Midlands RSS and got to know her better during my time at Arup. Our friendship continued as I moved on to other roles. She was the perfect mentor, role model and key to my decision to stand for RTPI President.

Graham Shaylor was Chief Planning Officer at Birmingham City Council where I started my career. He knew how to get the best from his teams, to build knowledge, skills and confidence.  His love of planning shone through, along with his recognition of what it could achieve in addressing the social and economic challenges of the time. He encouraged me to believe in myself and to take on new challenges. What is the best bit of advice you have received in your career? Believe in yourself, trust yourself and never do less than your best. What is your favourite place? Anywhere with mountains.

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