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Introducing the South Midlands Branch

Meet the committee

Back in October, Women in Planning South Midlands hosted their second event, a Breakfast Seminar, with the generous sponsorship from Freeths. Despite the best efforts of the M1 and other transport infrastructure not being in our favour the event was well attended by women from across the region. Most pleasing to the committee was the enthusiasm of women that work with planning, be this in engineering or in the legal sector to join us. The feedback from the event was excellent and we are already starting to look at future events. Part of the feedback was about knowing a little more about us as the committee and how to get involved…so here we go! Eleanor Gingell: Chair Ellie was born in Milton Keynes and has spent the majority of my professional life working in this area. For her Milton Keynes and its surrounding area is ‘home’ and has some of the most interesting planning projects going on. Ellie became involved with Women in Planning as a way to ensure the region, which often falls between different organisation’s coverage, had its own voice. Ellie cites Dr Wei Yang as one of her role models noting there is a lot that can be learnt both in terms of professional skills but also as a woman who is fearless to show her ambition. Ellie was awarded a British Empire Medal. Whilst this is a major achievement, she thinks that getting to eat cakes in Buckingham Palace was the greatest reward ever. She is also a closet transport nerd and knows far more than a normal person about the public transport network! Claire Berry: Committee Member Claire is a Chartered Town Planner. She has recently established her own planning consultancy, Claire Berry Planning, advising local planning authorities and other public sector organisations on Local and Strategic plan-making and implementation.  Claire is based in Northampton and joined the Women In Planning network in 2017 whilst based in London before becoming a Committee member of the newly established South Midlands branch in 2018. In her spare time Claire is a season ticket holder at Northampton Saints Rugby Club. Mel Balk: Committee Member Mel is a Senior Planner with Bidwells in Milton Keynes and became involved in WiP through Ellie after agreeing to go for a pizza and planning catch up. However, she sees it as an important part of the wider planning network and an opportunity to increase diversity and empower women. Her female role model is Kirstie Allsop for “her impeccable advice on property purchasing”. Mel’s hobbies include perusing Waterstones for stationary and books. Mel also completed a skydive (but wouldn’t do it again). Suzi Green: Committee Member Suzi was born and raised in Milton Keynes where she also lives, and works as a Planner for Bidwells, Milton Keynes. Suzi saw WiP as an opportunity to meet other successful women in planning. Her role model is her mum, a Partner and Head of Real Estate at Freeths LLP. Suzi has completed a solo sky dive. Suzi attended a “1960s left-wing alternative school” and cites this as her fun fact. However, probably more important is Suzi’s passion for sharing her career and passion for planning with current pupils of the school through a voluntary agreement in the local area. Becky Bonnett: Committee Member Becky works at David Lock Associates in Milton Keynes, having returned there following a stint in Development Management at South Northamptonshire Council. Becky became involved with the committee at the same time as Mel and the desire to stop talking about it and get on and do it (it was the pizza!). When not planning, Becky takes part in a range of crazy fitness activities (including getting up at ridiculous hours) and has completed various triathlons, half marathons and a few obstacle courses. Lisa Greenwood: Committee Member Lisa returned to Bedford two years ago, having lived in London and Berkhamsted. I now live and work here. Lisa became involved in WiP having followed the London group for some time, when she saw the offering in the South Midlands she wanted to get involved. Lisa considers that a network like this is very important and there exists a real opportunity in the South Midlands to grow the network and promote diversity. Her female role model is Professor Yvonne Rydin. Lisa says, “When I decided to become a Planner I read a lot of Yvonne’s work and am delighted that she is my personal tutor at UCL. Yvonne has shown me that women “can”, whatever their circumstances, and I am looking forward to working with her again this year.”. Lisa has been on TV six times and was once ‘gunked’ on a children’s gameshow. She also used to work at EasyJet and during my time there got to sit in the jump seat during a flight, help out with cabin crew recruitment days and visit air control tower at Luton. Next event The next event for the South Midlands will take us to Bedford, where DLP have kindly offered to host an update on plan making and key decisions in the area. The event should be of interest to all who are keen to understand what is happening in the area. Look out for details and save the 29th January in your diaries!

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