Organisation: Birmingham City Council
Contact Name: Julie Smith, Principal Planning Support Manager, Planning and Regeneration
Graduate Intern Name: Arif Komurcugil
Placement Title: Planning & Regeneration Placement
Dates of Placement: Summer 2014
Birmingham City Council is responsible for services that touch the lives of 1 million people; from education to social care, from libraries to museums, from transport to regeneration. We are the largest local authority in the UK, with a budget of over £3.5bn and a workforce of circa 48,000 people, making us equivalent to a FTSE 100 employer. We are carrying out some of the biggest regeneration schemes in Europe, we have one of the largest house building programmes in the UK, and we are pioneering new models of providing adult social care.
Planning & Regeneration were offering short, voluntary work experience placement opportunities for summer 2014 which will included opportunities to shadow managers and gain experience in a chosen discipline. Their aim is to effectively encourage the growth of local talent by stimulating interest in Planning and Regeneration.
Birmingham City Councils, Planning & Regeneration Department offering unpaid work experience placement opportunities including opportunities to shadow managers and gain experience in their chosen discipline. Our aim is to effectively encourage the growth of local talent by stimulating interest in Planning and Regeneration.
We made direct contact with local universities through either our corporate team or directly ourselves.
Duties included processing enforcement complaints regarding possible breaches of planning control and compliance with conditions attached to planning consents, undertaking necessary research and site visits, preparing letters and recommendations. In addition, Arif shadowed other officers such as Tree, Conservation and Planning Officers to establish and understand the link that these teams have with the enforcement function.
It provided us with additional resource to assist in the enforcing of alleged breaches of planning control and provide a student with an opportunity to see how the team, department and the enforcing of planning legislation works.
Very well. Following an initial period of bedding-in to understand the process and systems that BCC use, Arif has settled very well within the team.
Consciousness, thoroughness, ability to work with and gain the co-operation of colleagues, good communication skills and able to use own initiative.
Not to expect to too much. Dependent on length of time of their placement, they should concentrate on understanding the process and daily requirements rather than try to sample every aspect of all jobs within the department.
Yes, it gives the student an insight to the varied and difficult job that planning and enforcement officers do.
With BCC being the largest local authority in Europe, with me attending university in Birmingham and living in Birmingham, it seemed the best place to gain valuable experience in the working environment.
Based on previous work placements, I expected to just sit around looking over someone’s shoulder seeing how things were done, as opposed to actually doing any work myself. However, it has been the total opposite to that; I have been welcomed into the team by all members of staff and have been made to feel that I am valued and not just a spare part.
I expect to have a better and more concise understanding of the roles and duties an officer undertakes and deals with in an enforcement position. I also expect to be able to understand the process from the initial stage of a complaint being received to the potential final outcome.
When I arrived and was introduced to all the members of the team, I was pleasantly surprised that all were very willing to speak to me and not just see me as being in the way for the duration of time I was going to be here. Also, I am extremely grateful to how each and every officer has taken the time to show me a range of cases they are working on, in order for me to get a better understanding of the what an enforcement officer deals with.
I undertake the following duties:
- Processing and managing enforcement complaints from receipt to case closure
- Undertaking site visits, meetings and other research in connection with cases
- Drafting, producing and serving notices on owners and occupiers of land and property
- Undertaking interviews, including interviews under caution
- Drafting prosecution cases, including section 9 witness statements and prepare evidence of proofs and attend court when necessary
- Preparing and assisting with the enforcement appeals process
- Liaising with area teams and the Principal Enforcement Officer to ensure the progress of cases
- Ensuring that progress on cases is communicated to relevant parties
At the start of the placement I was first shown different cases which officers were working on. After that I was given a few new cases which officers were going to visit and was asked to find out any relevant information regarding the location in question, prior to a site visit. This was done by using the internal database which the council have. I have been on many different site visits with different officers which has provided me with many different viewpoints into how each officer deals with cases in the office and when on site.
Presumably, after I was seen to be capable of handling and doing the required work, I was given my own caseload. It was then up to me to organise site visits with officers and to assess what was in situ onsite. After that, it was up to me to update the council database with information gained from the site visit and then generate the relevant letters to the complainant and the owner.
My expectation before I started did not become reality. The expectation was mainly derived from previous experiences I have had in other work placements. It has provided me with a bank full of knowledge as to how things work in a planning enforcement team, an area I had an interest in before starting my placement. Now, from the experience, I have been given the further fire and desire to work in a very similar environment, carrying out the tasks I have been after graduating.
Be honest. If you pretend to know everything and not ask questions, you will learn nothing. Also have an understanding of the duties the different teams within the planning department and seek to spend time in the areas that most interest you. If not just try experience as many different teams as you can.