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Interview with John Burrow, Property Project Manager at Hackney Council

John Burrow is property project manager at Hackney Borough Council

What do you currently do?
After a 30-year career spanning planning policy, regeneration and property development, including the council’s school building programme, I am now employed by Hackney Council as a property project manager. The borough has transformed into a vibrant place in which residents are proud to live, which attracts investment and visitors, and which can hold its head high against many other parts of London.
It I wasn't in planning I'd probably be...
Programming jet-fighter simulators!  No, seriously, as a frustrated trainee planner I was offered a job working for an aerospace defence contractor based on my first degree in computer science. My then-employer responded by agreeing to enrol me on a day-release, post-graduate course in Town Planning at what is now the University of Westminster.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
Preparing the five-year City Challenge regeneration plan for Dalston, Hackney, setting up the delivery company and then being appointed to manage its implementation. This required a multi-disciplinary approach. The plan was delivered to programme and on budget and was highly commended by the government.
What attracted you to the profession?
Originally, the prospect of undertaking spatial research and modelling using operational research computer techniques. However, after a short while this was overtaken by growing interest in urban planning and an understanding of the difference that planning can make in terms of improving living environments and providing new life opportunities.
What single piece of advice would you provide to someone starting off a career in planning?
Planning is a broadly based profession that can take you into many areas of national and local government management and private practice, so you can gain wide experience and find out where your passion really lies. 
 If you could change one thing about the planning profession, what would it be?
A rapidly expanding population will place even greater emphasis on arbitration and community engagement skills to manage anticipated change.  Planners will need to make themselves even more accountable to local neighbourhoods and gain a thorough understanding of the local issues to ensure that developments can progress appropriately to the satisfaction of all parties.


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