Abid Hussain - Principal Town Planner at Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Parks are good for you. Research has found that people live healthier and longer if they have parks and open spaces nearby. Who decides where the open spaces go? Planners do. They also decide where new housing, employment and shops go.
I’m Abid. I’m a Principal Planner and I’m on a mission to share how planning makes a big difference to our lives. I’ve been going into colleges to persuade students to come and work for us and that planning is a lot more exciting than they may think.
It starts with a Local Plan, a long-term twenty-year vision for the area, that takes account of the latest planning legislation and involves a lot of community consultation. The Plan sets out where new development including housing, businesses, green spaces, shopping and leisure facilities will go. What sort of jobs do we need? How efficient and affordable do our homes need to be? We decide these and much more. Planning is all about creating healthy and sustainable environments with a great quality of life for local people.
We also process planning applications and decide whether they fit in with the Plan, and get approved, or refused if they don’t. Applications can be everything from a small domestic extension to a massive development scheme.
In the government’s ‘levelling up’ fund we’ve won significant money to kick start ambitious projects to regenerate parts of the city. There’s new development near the centre next to the train station and canal which is and set to create 174 apartments, leisure facilities and a hotel. We are working with the developer to create a stunning location and bring new housing, visitors and jobs into the city. I get to influence the shape of these schemes and every day feel I’m making a difference. Even if we agree one less house on a housing scheme, that’s extra green space for local people to enjoy.
I never intended to be a planner. I tried a few other careers first, I was a bank manager and I ran an online business, selling goods from China. I was looking for something more rewarding so applied to the council and discovered the world of planning, and I’ve been supported to do my planning qualifications on the job.
What I love most is that every single day is different. I can be signing off a report to approve new housing and later I’m in the crown court prosecuting someone who has built something without permission. That variety, plus leading the great team I’ve got around me, has kept me here for 15 years. There’s a good work life balance, decent holidays, competitive pay too. Best of all I get to make a real difference in my home town.
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