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Council planning officers in the running for prestigious awards

PUBLISHED: 11 November 2022


Two of Colchester Borough Council’s planning officers have made it through to the finals of the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence 2022.

Karen Syrett, lead officer for planning and place strategy, and Bethany Jones, Principal Planning Policy Officer, are in the running to scoop Head Planner of the Year and Young Planner of the Year respectively, when category winners are announced and celebrated at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday, 30 November.

Karen and Bethany both won in the East of England regional awards stages and once again face stiff competition in their categories, in this month’s national finals.

The prestigious awards celebrate outstanding plans, projects and people that demonstrate the power of planning – highlighting exceptional examples of how planning and planners have a positive impact on people’s quality of life in creating exceptional places and protecting the environment.

Karen’s nomination recognises her leadership contribution to planning and placemaking in the borough 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.

Said Karen: “I was overwhelmed just to have been nominated for the regional award, let alone to be shortlisted and then win it! Making it through to the national finals really is the cherry on the cake.

“Planning is not a profession for the faint-hearted and I have been lucky to have worked with some fantastic people over the years, who have all contributed in some way to me being in contention for the national award.”

Bethany’s nomination recognises her role as a MRTPI chartered young planner with seven years professional experience at Local Authorities across Minerals and Waste Planning, Development and Flood Risk, and Planning Policy. She is a member of the RTPI East of England Regional Activities Committee and is both the current chair and founder of the Young Planner’s committee, which now has 12 members and has hosted several popular social events and webinar series.

Bethany worked closely with the Tiptree and Eight Ash Green Neighbourhood Plan groups to provide guidance in bringing forward their neighbourhood plan for examination. She has also held a key role in delivering the Colchester Local Plan including presenting evidence at the Examination in Public and has since begun working on the Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community, with specific involvement in engagement and consultation outside of traditional methods. She is also the voice for the project on Spotify.

Bethany gained her RTPI chartership in February 2020 and since then has provided Licentiate Assessment of Professional Competence mentoring to other young planners regarding their L-APC submissions.

Speaking ahead of the awards ceremony, Bethany said: “Considering the breadth of talented Young Planners shortlisted for the national award, I couldn’t believe I was a finalist. It is a real honour.

“Being a local authority planner certainly has it challenges, and I wouldn’t be the planner I am today without the support of my managers and colleagues over the years and of course the connections, and now friends, I’ve made through the RTPI.”

Pam Donnelly, Chief Executive of Colchester Borough Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Karen and Bethany’s hard work and expertise in delivering positive planning outcomes for the borough and its residents has been recognised in this way.

“This is well-deserved recognition for two talented and committed members of our team who excel in their leadership, knowledge and practice and who inspire colleagues, clients and the wider planning community.

“Congratulations to both Karen and Bethany, and good luck in the national finals later this month!”

Page last reviewed: 11 November 2022

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