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Hearing from some of the RTPI Young Planners of the Year.

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Boasting 12 Regions across Britain and Ireland, every year the RTPI selects the regional Young Planner of the Year, exceptional professional planners within their first 10 years post-qualification experience. To celebrate this, we have invited some of the inspiring women who were awarded the 2021 title to inspire generations of Planner new and experienced.


South West Young Planner of the Year

Frances Summers Senior Planning Policy Officer at Dorset Council

I spent most of my twenties focussing on my husband’s career, as he is a Royal Marine, this involved a lot of moving around the UK. Studying while my children slept, I managed to complete my first degree, and only stumbled upon planning by mistake.

Starting off as a temporary planning assistant I was quickly promoted while my employers supported me through an Urban and Rural Planning masters. 6 years later and I’ve now worked on several neighbourhood plans and two local plans, including presenting evidence at an examination in public and leading on issues such as climate change, affordable housing and housing supply.

I was selected as a Woman of Influence in 2021 and I’ve won the RTPI South West Region’s Young Planner of the Year. The last 6 years have flown by and I’m so pleased to receive this kind of recognition. I merely feel like I’m doing a job I’m passionate about but receiving the awards for this has really boosted my confidence and is encouraging me to speak up about the things I feel passionate about.

Having lived in many areas of the UK, working predominantly in schools, I’ve seen first-hand some of the inequalities that remain in our society and how this can impact on a person’s options throughout their lives. These experiences drive me to seek social equality which underpins all my work.For instance, I’ve developed and delivered work experience packages, talks and activities for primary schools, secondary schools and sixth forms to make sure people know about planning and the routes into the profession from an early age.

Winning the RTPI South West Region’s Young Planner of the Year has presented me with the opportunity to speak up for the things I believe in. Though I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by strong women planners, I still often sit in meetings and realise I’m the only female there. I don’t feel planners can truly plan in the public’s interest if we aren’t as diverse as the public we serve.

This award has allowed me to become the RTPI’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion connection between national and South West region through my work in the Regional Management Board. And finally, being given the opportunity to write for Women in Planning, alongside other super strong women, is a dream come true. Thank you!


North West Young Planner of the Year

Olivia Pemberton Associate at Eden Planning

My interest in planning first came about whilst I was studying Geography (BA) at King’s College London. Following my undergraduate degree, I went on to study a master’s in Urban Regeneration and Development at the University of Manchester.

Over the last five years, I’ve developed my skills and knowledge as a planner. Having had experience in the public and private sector, I’ve looked through the lens of an agent, and a Local Planning Authority. Both perspectives allow me to approach each proposal with a joint mindset, whilst actively listening and building conversations around key matters to reach a strong outcome. My love of problem solving and my approach to planning also go hand in hand, as I’m passionate about finding creative solutions for any obstacle, whether it’s technical or policy related.

I joined the RTPI North West Young Planners Committee in 2018 and at the start of 2020, I was appointed as Chair. This role has enabled me to support other young planners and be the positive role model I wish I had at the start of my career. The committee has also given me the opportunity to showcase female leadership in a male-dominated industry, which I think is so important.

Female leadership in planning is also a feature at Eden Planning, where I work as a Senior Planner.

My directors, Becki Hinchliffe and Donna Barber, co-founded Eden Planning with a view to bringing a fresh perspective to the sector. With an all-female leadership team, it’s certainly a unique consultancy to work for.

Winning the RTPI North West Young Planner of the Year award was such a career milestone for me and it further validated everything I do in my role as Chair and as a professional planner. With such a platform, I hope that I can inspire other young women considering a career in planning.

I’m proud to be among other amazing women who were finalists in other parts of the UK and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2022 has to offer.


East of England Young Planner of the Year

Bethany Jones Planning Policy Officer at Colchester Borough Council

Being elected the East of England Young Planner of the Year 2021 was certainly not something I expected! There are many talented Young Planners in our region, I was over the moon that Matthew Harmsworth even nominated me.

The Young Planner Awards, provide the opportunity to reflect on your work experience which you can easily lose sight of when handling the day-to-day tasks. What I’m most proud of is all the ways I’ve been able to have a direct involvement in shaping our built and natural environment and local communities. Having worked at both Essex County Council and Colchester Borough Council, I’ve had the opportunity to work in a range of teams developing a specialism in Minerals and Waste, fulfilling the statutory consultee role of the LLFA, delivering the Colchester Local Plan and supporting various Neighbourhood Plans.

Most recently, I’ve been pulling all those skills together in the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community DPD and challenging the ‘norms’.Be that finding ways in which planning can help address climate change or simply taking a new approach to consultations to try to engage different demographics. It’s certainly been a busy and varied 6 years so far in my planning career!

Working in local authority, everyone is far too familiar of the stress and pressure we find ourselves under. It’s easy to forget about all the positives you are contributing; having someone else recognise this, particularly from outside your organisation is humbling and a massive boost to your confidence. The number of congratulation messages I’ve received from my colleagues, councillors and even the Chief Executive at CBC has truly surprised me and is a great reminder that we should all take the time to acknowledge the hard work we do. That’s exactly why I will be paying it forward and making a nomination for the 2022 Awards.


South East Young Planner of the Year

Zoe Knott Planning Manager at Gleeson Land

Our industry is changing and has over the 9 years that I have been working become more dynamic and open to new ideas.

My nomination for the South East Young Planner of the Year came as a surprise but was welcomed as it was from someone I respected and often looked to for guidance.

As the industry changes I think it has been important to support those coming in and open opportunities for different ways to develop not just through the formal university routes. I recently had the opportunity to lead on the Town Planning apprenticeship course which provides the opportunity to become involved in planning via a different route albeit one that has now been tested and been around for a number of years.

Those who attended the group interview where keen to learn more about the industry but wanted to work while getting qualified. I can relate to this as I undertook my masters part time and soon learnt that the practical experience was important to guide my understanding of the industry. The next few years in planning will be very interesting as we await further information from the Levelling up committee but guiding others who are starting out will continue to be important to help the industry grow.


*WiP Blog Team made an effort to reach out to all female winners of the 2021 RTPI Young Planner of the Year awards.


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