Be Inspired Series
Sheila Rodgers is a senior planner with planning consultancy Turley Associates
What does your job entail?
Working for Turley Associates, which is Northern Ireland's leading planning consultancy, my job primarily involves providing planning advice to a range of private and public sector clients together with overseeing a range of planning applications.
Key clients include the National Trust, Westfield, Odyssey Trust Company Limited, Renewable Energy International Ltd, Titanic Quarter, Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Northland Developments and the Belfast Metropolitan College. Other roles include co-ordinating planning appeals; undertaking research/feasibility studies and Environmental Impact Assessments.
On a daily basis I work closely with other professionals including architects, engineers and designers and public sector bodies e.g. local councils, DoE Planning, DRD Roads Service and Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Current projects include two major mixed-use regeneration schemes one associated with the Odyssey Complex car park and the second located in between Lifford/Strabane known as the Three Rivers Project, Strabane. Other projects include renewable energy projects; tourism and leisure schemes; residential developments; and rural diversification.
Is it 9-5?
At times it feels like 5am to 9pm, however, in this climate it is good to be busy. Certain deadlines such as submitting major planning applications/appeals requires an extra couple of hours but it is worth the effort to ensure clients' expectations are met. Since the opening of the new Cairnshill Park and Ride I have been able to gain some time back in the evenings. As a planner it is great to see the city gradually implement its sustainable transport campaign - Belfast on the Move.
How did you get into this line of work?
A combination of my love for A-level Geography; following in the footsteps of my father in the construction industry; and pursuing a specialist degree course. Coming from a construction background is an advantage as the pressures of project delivery are clearly understood from the outset.
Outline your career to date?
During the summer of 2004 I completed an internship with a private sector consultancy practice based in Covent Garden, London. This experience assisted with my career direction and in 2005 I successfully secured a graduate position at Drivers Jonas Deliotte based in Manchester.
Over the two and half years I had the opportunity to work on high profile projects including 60 storey tall buildings and major regeneration projects in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.
At the end of 2007 the opportunity arose to come home back to my roots and progress my career with Turley Associates as a Planner. In 2010 I was successfully promoted to senior planner.
Since 2008 I have been fortunate to work on some of Northern Ireland's key tourism projects including the new Giant's Causeway Visitors' Centre and Titanic Belfast.
It is an absolute credit to all the people involved in both projects and the citizens of Northern Ireland should be grateful and very proud of the world class facilities which have been delivered.
Tell us about your qualifications/training.
In 2005, I graduated from the University of Manchester with a Masters in Town and Country Planning (Hons) (1st). After two years post graduate experience I gained my Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) accreditation. In the same year I also became a member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?
Northern Ireland is a small country and you tend to cross paths with people you work with a lot more than I experienced in England, therefore it is even more important to sustain good relations.
Strong professional qualities which I feel complement the job role include excellent communication and negotiation skills together with having an efficient and focused work ethic. In terms of personal skills it also important to be friendly, approachable and sociable. Surprisingly there can be a glamorous side to the planning world and I ensure that my six-inch-plus heals are on stand-by.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Do not be afraid to throw yourself in and try not to become complacent with what you have achieved - always aim for more.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am currently learning the art of photography which is very enjoyable especially taking the opportunities at the weekends to capture some great sights in and around the Mournes. Other past times include walk/jogging along the Newcastle Promenade in the evenings, travelling and visiting friends and family.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I have experienced two mini earthquakes, the first in Manchester (2004) and the second in San Francisco (2006).
Who has inspired you most in your life?
My grandmother - hard working, determined, honest and organised.