Graduating from our Town Planning MSc has led Mark Walker to embark on a brand new career. He tells us more about his route into a town planning career.
- What were you doing before your postgraduate studies at Brighton?
I was the News Editor and Director of Communications at Latest TV, a terrestrial television station based in Brighton and covering the South Coast of the UK. Before then, I worked for a local newspaper and I have also previously worked in the House of Commons for a Member of Parliament, in the European Parliament for two Members of the Parliament and was then a Director of Policy and Advocacy for a major Healthcare Public Affairs Consultancy. I am now working as a Planning Officer at Adur and Worthing Councils, having gained employment in the planning sector very quickly after finishing my course.
- What made you choose the University of Brighton and this course?
Firstly, the City of Brighton and Hove is a great location for a University and for a place of study. I was born in Brighton and love the area and already knew that the University of Brighton was the perfect place for the MSc. Furthermore, the MSc Town Planning course is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and has an excellent record in regards to employment opportunities after graduating from the course.
- Can you describe your course and experience of studying here?
The course was a mixture of learning about the theory behind town planning, exploring contemporary planning issues, such as the impact of climate change on development, and also gaining practical experience through the Environment Placement module. I found the course very rewarding, even though it was conducted largely online via Microsoft Teams, and the Course Leader, Georgia Wrighton, as well as Dr Helen Walker and Andrew Coleman, adapted very well to the changing circumstances which we all found ourselves in. The support staff were also very good and it was clear from the start of the course that help was always available if needed.
- Was it what you expected, can you explain?
Yes, the course was conducted as I expected given I had heard good things about the course from previous graduates and I had already been given excellent customer service from University of Brighton staff in my communication leading up to the start of the course. Also, given the difficulties with studying for the course during the Covid-19 pandemic, it ran very smoothly on the whole and the course staff adapted very well to the changing circumstances.
- What were the highlights of your course?
The highlights of the course were the Environment Placement module, where I was lucky enough to gain work experience as a Planning Assistant at Adur and Worthing Councils, as well as the Planning Theory module, where it was fascinating to learn about the theoretical concepts behind the Town Planning academic discipline. Another highlight was the Dissertation module, given I focused on a local topic close to my heart; rethinking utopia in urban coastal communities. The chance to influence planning policy at Peacehaven Town Council was also very memorable and to work as a team with fellow students.
- What are you doing now you have graduated?
I am currently working as a Planning Officer at Adur and Worthing Councils, starting in March, 2022. I am enjoying it a lot, particularly working on the Adur Local Plan.
- What was it about this industry that first interested you?
One of my passions and interests is politics, particularly British and European politics, and, arguably, planning does involve a certain degree of political involvement in order for it to function at a local government level. With my former work for Latest TV as a News Editor, I also became aware of a lot of planning related issues which I wanted to explore further. With the Covid-19 pandemic I also decided I wanted a career change which incorporated the skills I gained during my previous work experience in politics and the news media.
- What do you recommend about it?
The structure of the course blends theory and contemporary planning issues with the chance to gain valuable practical work experience also, so that is a big bonus. The fact that the course was accredited by the RTPI and RICS was also very important for me.
- What would you recommend about your course?
The tutoring is excellent, the structure of the course well designed and it all happens at a great local in the City of Brighton and Hove.
- How important are the knowledge and skills gained on your course to your job and why?
The skills I gained were very important, particularly the analytical skills in sifting through the different sources of knowledge and statistical information relating to planning applications whilst at Adur and Worthing Councils and the modules relating the Sustainable Urbanism in Coastal Communities and Comparative Practice in Property and Planning are essential to my current job as Planning Officer also.
- What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying for this course / this university?
I would definitely go ahead and get a place on the course! It is well worth it!
- How do you feel now you have graduated?
I feel very happy and think that undertaking the course was a very good career move, given that I was lucky enough to find a full time job in the planning sector very quickly so soon afterwards.
- What are your plans for the future?
I am now working as a Planning Officer for Adur and Worthing Councils and I plan to work there to learn as much as I can at a local authority level, including with sustainability appraisals, day to day planning applications, the development of local plans and changes in national planning policy.
- Did your course help you to decide on or plan your career / decide to apply for your job? If yes, how did it help?
Yes, the fact that I gained valuable work experience at Adur and Worthing Councils during the course was a key factor in me applying for the Planning Officer position at the same employer after I completed the course. It helped because I already knew people who worked at Adur and Worthing LPA and, perhaps more importantly, I already understood many of the key planning policies.
Watch this vide of course leader Georgia Wrighton chatting to Mark about the course on Latest TV.