Karen Syrett, Colchester City Council’s lead officer for planning and place strategy, has scooped the Head Planner of the Year Award at a national awards ceremony held in London on Wednesday night (30 November).
The RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence are the most established and respected awards in the UK planning industry. Running for over 40 years, they celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society.
Karen, who made it through to the finals after winning in the East of England regional awards, in July, faced stiff competition at the national awards.
Awarding her the top prize in the Head Planner of the Year (Local Planning Authority) category, the judges highlighted the wealth of Karen’s experience across the different thematic areas of planning and how she has significantly influenced Colchester City Council in the development and promotion of its corporate policies and initiatives, adding: “Karen is clearly a strategic leader and a team player. She goes the extra mile in her relationships with the team, partners, and the profession.”
Karen’s win recognises her leadership contribution to planning and placemaking in the city over many years. Karen has worked in local authorities for more than 30 years, including 14 years in Development Management (including enforcement) and nine years in Spatial Policy, and was one of the first women in the East of England to be promoted to a senior management level in planning at a local authority.
Karen has been influential in the delivery of Colchester’s Local Plan and holds a key directional role in development management, being a strong and well-respected officer for the council and role model for her teams.
Pam Donnelly, Chief Executive of Colchester City Council, said: “I am absolutely thrilled and delighted that Karen’s hard work and expertise in delivering positive planning outcomes for Colchester and its residents has been recognised with this very special award.
“This is well-deserved recognition for a member of our team who, as an exemplar of excellent leadership and practice, inspires colleagues, clients and the wider planning community. Congratulations, Karen, on your well-deserved win!”
Karen said: “I was absolutely thrilled to win this award and be recognised by fellow professionals. This is testament to my team and previous colleagues – I certainly wouldn’t have won the award without them. Planning often gets a bad press but it is a profession to be proud of and no matter what people think we only ever want to do the right thing and create great places. I would certainly recommend being a planner to anyone considering their career.”
Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI, added: “The quality of entries in this year’s RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence was outstanding. Together, they have demonstrated the important role planners play in creating well-designed and sustainable communities, as well as their positive contribution to our society.
Pictured: Karen (left) accepts her award from RTPI Vice President Sue Bridges © RTPI