A new face is at the helm of our busy planning team – and he’s already making a big impression, though his colleagues haven’t yet met him in person.
Ross Whear, the former Strategic Applications Manager at the London Borough of Lambeth, has become our Head of Planning and Economic Development. He has joined the team after delivering large-scale residential and commercial developments across Lambeth, and working on Crossrail while in the planning policy team at the London Borough of Redbridge.
His current challenges at Hertsmere are manifold, but foremost among them is how to meet his team, while the offices are closed and everyone is working at home due to the current crisis.
He said: “It has been a strange first week, but I am very much used to home working, having done two days a week while at Lambeth. I did hold a whole service ‘meet and greet’ online on my first day and I’ll be having a 15 minute chat with each member of the team over the next month.
“The team has so far adapted well to working remotely, while continuing to deliver the planning service. We were one of the first authorities to hold a fully online planning committee in late April.
“We are however not complacent and will continue to refine our approach to ensure the service is able to operate as fully as possible given the restrictions on social contact remain in place.”
As well as navigating and responding to the challenges of the pandemic, preparing a new draft Local Plan for pre-submission publication and developing a Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan are on Ross’ to-do list. Hertsmere has declared a Climate Emergency and pledged to become a carbon-neutral local authority by 2050.
Ross added: “I was attracted to Hertsmere as a very ambitious pro-growth authority in a prime position on the edge of London.
“While delivering new growth is challenging anywhere, this role is about working with elected members in setting out a plan for appropriate and sustainable levels of growth, supported by infrastructure to support the long term prosperity of existing and future communities and businesses.
“To achieve this the team has a number of ongoing work streams alongside our statutory function to process and determine planning applications.”
However, there is no doubt that economic recovery will be chief among the priorities facing the team and local authority as a whole, as the country emerges from lockdown.
Ross continued: “In Hertsmere, as across the world, this pandemic has had a devastating impact on our local economy, however we are doing all we can to support businesses, for example, we’ve recently adopted Article 4 directions, which protect the borough’s main employment sites.
“Despite the current uncertainty, there is a lot to feel positive about with regards to Hertsmere’s future. We’re currently working on a planning application for Sky Studios Elstree, a major 14-stage production facility which is expected to attract £3bn investment and create over 2000 new jobs.
“As well as our new Local Plan, we’re working with all Hertfordshire authorities on a shared vision for growth and in partnership with five local authorities to deliver a Joint Strategic Plan.
“I hope to use my experience in central London to help tackle the challenges and harness the opportunities that come out of the current crisis for Hertsmere, for the benefit of all the people who live, work and study in the borough.”
Posted on Thursday 14th May 2020