Celebrating 30 years of the Women’s Design Service

2017 marks 30 years since the formation of the Women’s Design Service. To celebrate this anniversary we have two articles below on the Women’s Design Service and the London Women and Planning Forum. We also have six copies of papers by the Women’s Design Service available below.

Women’s Design Service


In the ferment that was the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s all kinds of women’s groups and organisations sprang up:- from the 300 Group working for equal representation in Parliament to Women in Nalgo concerned that unions were not championing women’s issues to the National Abortion Campaign. Similar awakenings were happening in the area of the built environment, with women raising concerns both about women in the various professions and the way that the built environment was largely designed for white able-bodied men.

Women’s Design Service was developed out of the Technical Aid movement. In those days there were many voluntary groups in receipt of grants and many needed help with premises issues. WDS focused on helping the many women’s groups then in London, most of whom were funded by Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council. WDS worked with all kinds of organisations, advising on planning and structural issues, drawing up plans for improvements and improving accessibility.

When Thatcher government abolished the GLC, many of those groups lost their funding and folded. However from the experience of working with women and hearing about their problems with the built environment, WDS re-invented itself as a research organisation. We investigated all kinds of issues; toilets, transport, creches, parks, housing, offices, tenant participation and running as a thread through all these topics – women’s safety from male violence. This is the period when most of WDS’s publications were produced.

In the early 1990s Women’s Design Service started to assist London Women and Planning Forum (LWPF) by organising public meetings on their behalf and publishing the Forum’s discussions as broadsheets.  Men were welcome at the events, but the policy was always to engage women speakers. Topics included race, disability, routes for women in construction, older women, art, cctv, environment and many other issues that were topical in that particular time. After every event a broadsheet was produced (in print, no internet in those days!) and some of these are still available.

In 2001 WDS was facing ever more severe funding problems, and it looked as if the organisation might have to close. At that point the LWPF was handed over to Queen Mary University of London where Alison Blunt in the Geography Dept. continued to chair the group until it lapsed a few years ago.

It was in 2002 that I came in as Director, and given the ongoing loss of grant funding to the voluntary sector started to build WDS up as more of a social enterprise, offering consultancy with our Making Safer Places project and on the Gender Equality Duty. Trustees agreed to leave LWPF with Queen Mary’s although WDS continued to be an active member. Many highly informative and productive events were organised during those years with an emphasis on bringing together academics, practitioners and users.

More information on WDS led projects, events and publications can be found here

Women Design Service Booklet 

Wendy Davis was a founding member of the Women Design Service and a Director from 2002 -2008

London Women and Planning Forum

Discussions on gender and planning have been on the urban agenda for a long time.

Early examples include gender specific policies of the Greater London Council (GLC) Women’s Committee, academic research on gender bias in built environment and RTPI’s planning advice note on Planning for Women. Similarly, discussions have also focussed around how planning policies and practice affect women’s lives, and how planning departments can be more representative of the population they serve.

It is important to touch upon this rich history in the WiP blogs. It is our history and it is important to remember the pioneers. This will also remind us how much progress we, the planning community, achieved (or not) on gender issues in planning over the last 30-40 years.

One group who committed time and effort to gender issues in 1990s was the London Women and Planning Forum, a network for women planners and planning students who were interested in discussing a wide range of planning issues from a gender perspective.

The group were meeting roughly four times a year to discuss women and planning issues, identify good practice and provide support and advice to women planners. The meetings often had challenging and thought-provoking presentations followed by discussions, and attracted a wide audience with people working in local authorities and academia, as well as other sectors and community organisations concerned with planning and equality issues.

The support from the Women’s Design Service (see our previous blog on WDS) played a crucial role in keeping the Forum going. In fact, the Forum probably would not have survived so long if it didn’t come under the WDS umbrella.

Meeting notes were published as Broadsheets by the WDS. The topics included designing out crime, town centres, planning education, housing and women’s position in planning departments. You have to bear in mind that the discussions and views in these Broadsheets are a reflection of the social, political and planning context more than 20 years ago. Some of the views and solutions may feel out of date or not relevant anymore. But you will also find that some of the issues and challenges discussed then are still relevant.

In 2001, LWPF came under the umbrella of Queen Mary University of London where Alison Blunt in the Geography Department continued to chair the group involving academics, practitioners and users.

You will find below a selection of the Broadsheets as records of London Women and Planning Forums discussions and presentations. We feel it is important that this history is not lost. We are where we are because of views and actions of many women before us who committed time and effort to make life better for those who experience inequality in the built environment. We leave it to you to decide how much, if any, progress has been made since the Forum put these issues on the agenda of the planning community in London and beyond over 20 years ago.

Author Dr Sule Nisancioglu is a member of Women in Planning –  London Branch

View some of the London Women and Planning Forum Broadsheets below:

  1.  Women as Planners – Is More Better
  2. Breaking down the barriers for Women
  3. Are Town Centres Managing?
  4. Gender issues within planning education
  5. Designing out Crime?
  6. Policy planning and development control – how can they work together to benefit women in the planning process


Article, networking, North West committee

The Value of Networking: A Student’s Perspective

A seasoned networker will know all about the do’s and don’ts of events, but ask a student on the cusp of entering the big bad world of the graduate job market and you’ll most likely be met with a blank stare while their head whirs with the realisation they’ll need to learn, and learn quickly. An increasingly competitive career market calls for a more robust skills base, which extends beyond the top-of-the-league-table degree. University can often feel like a bubble, where students are shielded from the real world with the reassurance of ‘get a good degree, and you’ll make it’. I hate to be the person to tell these students that, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Yes, you can write a 1st class essay on the implementation of green infrastructure in urban design, and your knowledge of rural diversification is very impressive, but how firm is your handshake?

I learnt early on in my university experience that soft-skills matter. The simple ability to look a person in the eye makes the difference in selling yourself as the kind of person they want on their team. However, most students will tell you their course includes little to do with networking and associations; in many cases students learn about networking post-graduation. But surely these are skills we should be developing from the out-set and throughout? Wouldn’t it be good to enter the business arena with the basic skills of interaction? The answer is yes, yes it would. Developing these skills helps us make those all-important connections in the industry, enabling that foot-in-the-door or a step-up-the-ladder. We’ve all heard ‘it’s about who you know’, and that is why I got involved with Women in Planning. If it’s about who-you-know, I decided to get to know people.

 As a student, it can be very daunting to enter a room with experienced professionals, however if joining the North-West Committee of Women in Planning has taught me anything, it is that these professionals want to encourage and support those entering the industry, as well as those already established. I have made connections with people from all sectors, offering advice but also interested in listening and learning from others. Women in Planning provides an inclusive environment to meet and develop connections, with women from all stages of life and positions welcome to get involved. It is this inclusive environment which sets Women in Planning apart. We strive to encourage those on the path of career development, supporting their journey through the glass ceiling, and we support those with other priorities in life who want to remain connected to the industry. Supporting women of all career stages has developed a diverse pool of experience, providing opportunities to make lasting connections. As a woman just starting out in a career, experiencing this approachable atmosphere has been very reassuring as it is clear that support extends to women of all stages, positions, and ambitions.

Introducing women to the world of networking at an early stage in their career breaks down the perception of networking as a daunting challenge, and demonstrates that networking is in fact an enjoyable and social affair, providing the opportunity to meet like-minded people. We all know networking enables us to expand our knowledge and develop ideas, but experience in networking also helps us recognise opportunities. An offer of a placement, a request for a product or service, and employment openings may appear as passing comments in conversation, and it is these fleeting opportunities which we must learn to seize to take full advantage of the benefits of networking. Developing a confident and sustained presence in the business community is vital in building connections, and the sooner we start establishing our presence the better.

Women in Planning North West will be holding a launch event and details will be released soon. Please get in touch with us for details at

K Airey

Kimberley Airey

Student of Environment & Planning

University of Liverpool

North West Committee Member of Women in Planning

LinkedIn: Kimberley Airey


Article, event write up

Housing White Paper: A Step in the Right Direction

The long awaited Housing White Paper (HWP) was published in February 2017. The Paper has been hotly debated since and we are still waiting for the outcome of the consultation.

Alice Lester MBE (Head of Planning, Transport and Licensing at Brent Council), Lorraine Hughes (Senior Director at CBRE), Sara Parkinson (Planning and Development Programme Director at London First) and Rachel Ferguson (Senior Planning Executive at Metropolitan Housing) joined us on the 11 April at Dentons‘ London office to provide their view on the HWP.


Whilst there are differing views on the HWP’s effectiveness, the panellists provided a useful insight sectors. The panellists largely agreed that, whilst the HWP is not perfect; it is a step in the right direction and it is one of the many steps that is needed to be taken to increase the delivery of homes across the UK. Hughes noted that, “the HWP is going in the right direction. There is a need to understand the barriers and harness the opportunities”.

Planning is not the panacea for housing

From the panellist’s perspective, there is a failure to fully recognise the economics of the situation. Basic supply and demand theory is too simplistic when applied to the housing market as the affordability of housing is not comparable to the affordability of other commodities such as groceries. This is because “people use housing as an investment” therefore bringing housing down to an affordable level could mean negative equity for many people.

The panel considered that the HWP does not appropriately address viability, in particular it lacks clarity on London’s position. The HWP also fails to recognise the gap between policy and available funding which often leads to the delayed delivery of sites. Little attention is paid to the importance of the plan-making stage, and the issues surrounding the Green Belt firmly remains the ‘elephant in the room’.

On the whole, the panel agreed that the answer to deliver significant levels of new homes is too complex to be simply the burden of the planning system alone and as Parkinson commented “Planning is not the panacea for delivering new housing”. The ‘solution’ is much wider and would need to incorporate economic variables, viability, and politics all of which have a significant influence on housing delivery.

Increased Planning Application Fees

Lester welcomed the proposed changes to planning application fees but emphasised that there is still likely to be disparity between the fees and the actual man hours employed by Development Control teams. Major planning applications often end up subsidising householder applications and unless the fees are right an increase of 20% will not make much difference. Lester considered that planning application fees are only one part of a wider problem. The other issues Local Planning Authorities are facing is a clear key skill shortage, especially at principal planner level.

Hughes and Parkinson indicated that their clients and members are likely to pay the suggested increased planning application fees, but only if there were tangible improvements in decision taking. Parkinson said however, that resources were also needed in policy to increase confidence in a plan-led approach.

Speeding up delivery

Whilst the panel accepted that the private sector has a role to play in speeding up delivery of new housing, Housing Associations and Local Authorities also have an important role in the delivering of new homes.

Ferguson noted that her residential delivery rates are often stalled by the time it takes to discharge conditions.  She highlighted that the time taken to clear conditions is often longer than anticipated and this impacts on the commencement date. Lester explained how this is an issue she is trying to address in her current role at LB Brent. Lester holds regular ‘condition workshops’ where officers have to justify use of non-standard conditions and are told to apply conditions with caution.


The hype around the Housing White Paper remains and there are certainly suggested measures which the built environment industry would welcome as a way to facilitate the increased delivery of new housing. As agreed at the event, the HWP cannot be a standalone mechanism and will need wider support from sectors outside planning in order to meet the housing targets.

We shall await the outcome of the government’s consultation on the paper to understand whether any of the above ideas area common themes within the wider industry.

We are grateful to our panellists for taking part in the event and of course to our sponsor and host, Dentons for their hospitality.


Sara Sweeney, Planning Manager at Kitewood



mary introduction and room full

mary introduction

panel in discussion 5


Cities: the other dimension

Traditionally cities have been designed by men – from architects to city planners, surveyors and engineers – and the primary assumption has been that everyone is an able-bodied young person, going from home to work in a one-dimensional trajectory. The secondary assumption has been that the populace’s main journeys are indeed to and from work.

But from these assumptions come problems. Take the first, that everyone is able-bodied: a lack of stair-free access at transport nodes to assist those with disabilities, children, or even people travelling with luggage turns many people’s journey into a struggle.

And the assumption of the work-home trajectory has led to the unsustainable zoning of residential and economic land uses, which have traditionally been separated in city planning.

How does this affect the cities we live in?

Cities do not take into account all the unacknowledged work that people do. Things like childcare, which can make journeys around cities more complicated. Trip-chain journeys might, for example, start from home, first taking a child to day-care, then dropping off another child at school, before eventually reaching work, with the reverse journey including a supermarket visit before getting home. These activities are not well supported in our urban set-up.

If women were in charge of urban design, would cities look different?

Men and women have different experiences in cities. As more men take a larger role in childcare, they will notice accessibility issues. But women have experienced these for longer. Day-to-day they can be confronted with difficulties manoeuvring pushchairs and buggies around the urban environment. Furthermore, more women work part-time or from home, merging home and office. Some of these experiences relate closely to those with disabilities.

So, if more cities were planned by women they would not necessarily look different, but they would feel different. Women are for the most part more sensitive to the needs of others because they have for so long experienced at least some form of social exclusion. This would make cities more integrated and user-friendly, which could mean they were planned with better transport and more integrated mixed uses.

Would this mean the end of central business districts?

Probably. But these are already being planned out in favour of residential-led, mixed-use schemes. Canary Wharf now has a large residential population to match its economic one and it is planning to expand with the development of Wood Wharf.

What would cities designed by women mean for the property markets?

The diversity inherent in this new way of planning and designing cities would mean that the so-called comparables in the property markets may not be as explicit. Valuers and investors would have even more reasons to debate the “true” value of property. Real estate investment would need a long term strategy beyond the normal five-to-seven years. Long-term investments could lead to stability of property prices and less speculation around future value growth: a more sustainable economic model.

In short, more women could mean less boom and bust as less risk is taken.

Ultimately diversity in the built environment will change cities for the better by adding another lens to development decisions.

The above was authored by Clara Greed, professor of inclusive urban planning at the University of the West of England, Charlotte Morphet, senior consultant at planners Turley and co-founder of Women in Planning, Maria Wiedner, founder and chief executive of Cambridge Finance and RE Women, and Liane Hartley, founder of Mend and Urbanistas. It is based on their Women: Know Your Place discussion at the WOW Festival.

This article was first published on Estates Gazette.Com REWIRE blog. Read the original article at the following link



Is this a revolution?

2015 marks the first time in history that all three of the main Built Environment member organisations have elected female presidents coinciding in the same year. Jane Duncan (Royal Institute of British Architects President Elected), Louise Brooks-Smith (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) and Janet Askew (Royal Town Planning Institute) are all inspirational women who are bringing to the fore diversity and equality in the profession.  So does this historic event mean the start of a female revolution, in what is still a male dominated field?

Many topics were discussed at Women Paving the Way on 31st March 2015 including gender, equality and diversity, barriers including confidence and ways to succeed. The event sought to consider how women are taking on leadership roles in the built environment.

Tony Horrell, CEO of Colliers International UK & Ireland, announced at the event that Colliers has recently started a Women’s network. The new network is unique in that it is not only for employees, but for clients as well. The women in the real estate firm are also able to enrol on a Woman in Leadership programme. It is certainly positive to see such schemes coming to the fore.

This was the first of many initiatives which were discussed on the evening. Jane Duncan discussed RIBA’s #SeeMeJoinMe campaign on Twitter, a campaign which aims to celebrate women working in the construction industry by raising their visibility. Louise Brooke-Smith said that the RICS had also started a campaign called Visible Women.

The RTPI are taking a different approach, not focusing solely on gender but equality and diversity as a whole. This is perhaps because the RTPI has the largest female membership of the organisations at 35% and a long history of female presidents, with Sylvia Law as the first female president in 1974. Behind the RTPI are RIBA with 17% and RICS with 13%. With such low levels of women in these two professions, there is an apparent need for gender targeted campaigns.

The RICS are, however, also launching an Access Consultant Certification scheme for employers which will highlight firms who are committed to equality and diversity in the work place.

These schemes will no doubt level the playing field in the built environment solving issues such as unequal pay, which Louise Brooke-Smith highlighted was still an issue. The fight for equal pay has been an on-going issue since the Ford Dagenham plant strike in 1968. The strike of the Ford sewing machinists then lead to the Equal Pay Act 1970 introduced by Barbara Castle, also one of Louise’s heroes.

Louise suggested the fact that the issue of gender balance is being so heavily discussed, not only in the built environment but globally with the UN ‘He-for-She’ campaign, which is perhaps a sign that there is a revolution taking place. This can only be a good thing, and the rise of our sister networks Urbanistas, RE Women and WSCP is another strong indicator that women are having their moment.

It was positive to hear that gender biased ideologies have moved on, and there is no longer a need to apply for university courses as both a male and a female to be accepted, as Louise did when she decided she wanted to study Mining at Imperial College London.  However, as Jane explained there is more that can be done to make the working environment open to all with flexible working; an understanding that long hours are not possible if you have children, regardless of gender, but also considering that a work life balance is important.

The panel deliberated other barriers which face women working in the built environment, with confidence portrayed the most prominently. Janet has noticed a lack of confidence in her female students and considers this to be a barrier to success. ‘Confidence’ is a reoccurring theme in all Women in Planning events since the network’s inception in 2012 and is one of the reasons for the groups creation. Time and time again, we hear that if men consider that they know 50% of a job role they will have the confidence to apply, assuming they know enough and learn the rest on the job. Women apparently have the opposite view and consider that if they only know 50% of the job, it is not enough to apply and that they could not fulfil that role.

Confidence does not seem to be the only issue Janet has noticed; there is a lack of ambition in female students and this was also discussed at our joint International Women’s Day Event in March 2015. Women do not necessarily plan beyond having children, as they can consider it to be the end of their career. For some it will be the end of their career, but it should be known that it is okay to plan your career for as long as you want.

Both ambition and confidence go hand in hand; having the confidence in yourself will allow you to have ambition and realise it.

The panel provided advice on how to be more confident with the main tip being practice makes perfect but also support and training is required. Other advice included pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and taking opportunities given to you; whatever you do and whatever gender you are you need to be strong and resilient. Importantly, all agreed that you should not be frightened to say what you believe and not to stay silent about equality, an inspiring message for all.

Thank you to Colliers International again for hosting and sponsoring the evening.

By Charlotte Morphet, Co-founder, Women in Planning


REVIEW – Proud of Women 3

Confidence is key – Fake it till you make it!
We were delighted when Dentons law firm agreed to sponsor and host our third event in the “Proud of Women” series: Inter-professional. The London weather did not sympathise with us as we arrived at Dentons London office just off Fleet Street, umbrella in hand. We were whisked up to the 9th floor where the sun was setting over the spectacular view of the City.
At 7pm, Charlotte Morphet (founding member of Women in Planning) took to the stage to welcome guests and speakers to the event, thanking Dentons for all their support.
The first speaker was Miranda Pennington, who is a Partner at Metropolis Green. She took us through a quick overview of the role she plays within Metropolis, a small company in ‘Tech City’ with – impressive clients.
Miranda started life at the London borough of Islington’s sustainability team (which when she left, her role was separated into 5 different jobs!) and took the plunge by switching to Metropolis Green; and becoming Partner by her early 30s. The audience was inspired by her example of building her business particularly through the recent recession, focussing on building a reputation using the planning and architectural side of Metropolis. Her hard work is eventually paying off with her own client base and many projects separate to Metropolis Planning and Metropolis Architecture arm.
Miranda left us all with several of her top tips. The ones that stood out was that you must believe in yourself, don’t ever panic – take a deep breath and the answers will come to you and if it doesn’t then you can “fake it until you make it”, it’s easy to stand out and make sure you have a 5 year plan!
The next speaker, Ann-Marie Shivnen an Associate Director at Robert West said that being asked to present made her think about her early career. Also what lessons she could pass onto her younger colleagues which was inspiring.
Her first job was at Buchanan Consulting engineers which, three weeks into her graduate role, was taken over by Capita Symonds. After a while she began to get the ‘London bug’ and left Newbury for the big smoke. In 2007 she returned back to Dublin for a few years but the recession has hit the Irish Capital hard. Instead she returned to London were she was successful at gaining her position at Robert West in 2009.
Ann-Marie gave us her three top tips which we know will help members develop our own careers. The first was making sure you understand the process to be knowledgeable in your specialism. The second is to learn how to influence others and the third is to ensure you develop your network.
The third and final speaker was Michele Vas a Managing Associate of the Planning Law team from Dentons. Following completion of her training contract with a local authority she chose to move to the ‘dark side’ and joined Dentons in their Public Law department. Over the years she has been sent on a number of “character building” days thanks to her boss; and on reflection now realises how they have helped develop her career particularly her teamwork skills.
More recently she has acted on behalf of Hammersmith and Fulham council on the Earls Court development. Michele has acted on behalf of other local authority which provided an interesting insight that she could combine her local authority experience within the private sector environment.
Michele gave us some of her top lessons that she has learnt over the course of her career which includes the importance of teamwork, having the confidence and initiative to stand up and have an opinion. Michele also reiterate the previous top tips to ensure that you have strong knowledge of your industry.
Michele left us with Dentons Planning Law Blog which enables members to keep abreast with the ever changing planning law system.
Following the presentations There was plenty of time for questions to be asked over delicious canapés and a few glasses of wine.
By Mary Fortune and Charlotte Morphet


Proud of Women Event 2 – Cross Sector Review

On Wednesday 20th March Women in Planning held their second ‘Proud of Women’ event looking across the public, private and third sector. The event hosted three prominent women working in Greater London in all three sectors to provide a snap shot of practicing planning professionals.

Charlotte Morphet, (a founding member of Women in Planning), kicked off proceedings by briefly discussing the inspiration behind this series of events.  The main inspiration was cited was the RTPI 2013 initiative #proudofplanners #proudofplanning.

Kathy McEwan, Head of Planning and Enabling at Design Council CABE was the first speaker of the evening. Kathy started by showing a picture of her mother, Ann McEwan, who was a leading town planner of her day with Colin Buchanan in 1970s. She said that her mother must have been tough to have the career she had in such a male dominated profession.


Kathy then took the audience on a journey through her career, stating that she was a late bloomer in her success at aged 40. Kathy has worked at two prominent London Boroughs, Hackney and Camden,here she set up the well known Camden Design Awards and Hackney Design Awards.

After this Kathy outlined the history of the changing role of CABE from quango to charity. It was interesting to note that the Design Council was once Council for Industrial Design (1944) and that CABE was previously the Royal Fine Art Commission (1924).

It was clear that the ethos of CABE had not been changed by moving into the Design Council as the aim is to collaborate with Built Environment professionals to achieve sustainable communities through good design practice. Now, however, Design Council CABE considers growth as part of its agenda.

The main change since the merge is centered on how CABE delivers its agenda. No longer government funded, they now bid for grants to deliver work about design in the built environment. Or they require developers to pay for a Design Review panel.

Kathy introduced the audience to new Design Council CABE publications ‘Active By Design’, ‘Design Led Approach to Infrastructure’, ‘Design in Neighborhood Planning’ and ‘A Design Wayfinder’.

CABE’s aim has always been to assist in the delivery of places that work, last and delight with Kathy presenting examples of this in her presentation. CABE helps bring communities together by providing design support and review for a wide range of stakeholders in the development process. This is promoted at a grassroots level by ensuring that planning policies express design-led objectives for developments, such as Crossrail.

Kathy ended the presentation by announcing that CABE are launching a new initiative called ‘Voice Box’ which enables community groups to identify the key issues, opportunities and challenges in the process of achieving good homes in their community.

Erica Mortimer, Managing Director of CgMs Ltd, spoke about her path to running a private sector planning and heritage consultancy with over 100 employees. Erica made a daring decision to enter the planning profession at a time when only three spaces were allocated to women on her chosen university course.  Her career started at the City of London Corporation’s planning department, the financial district of London. Erica left to work at the London Borough of Lambeth, where she felt there was not enough work for her to undertake and departed in under a year of her appointment. A lesson here seemed to be that if you are not satisfied in your job, it is acceptable to leave to find something more challenging. Erica went back to the City but eventually moved into the private sector, joining a planning and development team in a surveying firm.

Due, in part, to the early 1990s recession this firm closed. Out of its ashes came CgMs Ltd in 1997. Erica interestingly noted that the client cultivation and planning came easy but all four directors had to learn the ropes of the business and they fell into the roles they now have.

CgMs in addition to providing planning consultancy service also uniquely offers archaeology within its heritage services. Erica explained that one of the most common questions she is asked is what archaeological findings have CgMs discovered. Much to the disappointment of the aspiring Indiana Jones’ in the audience, Erica informed us that most archaeology is now kept in insitu with foundations carefully built around historic remains.

Erica then look the audience through three examples of her recent planning work. Firstly, she told how she had assisted in the deliver a 570,000 sqm inland port, iPort, in Doncaster. The project is one of the largest regeneration projects in Donacaster’s History.

Next, Erica discussed her recent work for Historic Royal Places, particularly Hampton Court, where she had recently gained planning consent for the ‘Magic Garden’. The Magic Garden will be a historic themed play area, which Erica described as a cross between Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland, even describing some of it as looking like ‘quidditch’ towers. The main objection discussed at the London Borough of Richmond planning committee, was in fact noise from the children.

Erica ended her presentation with redevelopment of London Bridge Station and treated the audience to Grimshaw’s fly through for the planning committee. Once completed it will be the largest rail concourse in the UK. Erica interestingly noted that infrastructure is fast becoming a growth sector for planning consultancies.

Seema Manchanda former Head of Planning at the London Borough of Wandsworth was the final speaker of the evening. Seema provided advice to the audience, using her career as the case study. A Cambridge graduate, Seema started her career in a Planning and Development team at a surveying firm, where she spent much of her time copying plans for the rest of the team. The first planning application Seema submitted was for a bund (aka a mound of soil) which she needed to go on site and measure.

After this experience, Seema moved into the regeneration team at the London Borough of Sutton where she gained the key skills that she has required throughout her career, such as bid writing.

Seema then moved to a position at the London Borough of Haringey as Head of Regeneration and Planning and then at London Borough of Newham.  At Newham Seema was involved in identifying a new site for travelers to assist with the delivery of the Olympics. Now at Wandsworth, Seema has been instrumental in delivering the Nine Elms development. Seema worked to generate funding for the Northern Line extension via Section 106 Agreements, which has been a catalyst for development in this area.

Seema’s tips to Women in Planning were to collect skills and knowledge by gaining experience in many areas of planning (law, policy, consultancy and development management) and the wider sectors. Further to this she said that being assertive was important, learn how to make sound decisions quickly and ensure you formulate a convincing reasoning behind these decisions.

To conclude the event, it is clear that we can definitely be proud of women in planning and proud of planning as a profession.

The event was attended by over 40 professional women who we would like to thank for their attendance. We would also like to thank our speakers Erica, Kathy and Seema who we consider to be exemplary examples of leading planners.

Thank you also to Design Council CABE, for allowing us to host the event at the iconic Angel Building, and KDH Associates for sponsoring refreshments. Without these kind supporters and sponsors our events are not possible.