Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

First cohort of Public Practice architects teams up with council planners

Pp the first public practice cohort credit tim smyth
  • 1 Comment

The first intake of a pioneering new scheme which puts architects in local government planning departments on year-long placements has been announced

A group of 17 associates picked from more than 200 applicants started working for councils in London and the South-East last month as part of an initiative by new social enterprise Public Practice.

The not-for-profit company was set up last year to help address a lack of public sector planning capacity by acting as a ‘broker’ between local authorities and interested architects.

Pp placement map 180508

Pp placement map 180508

The authorities pick candidates from a shortlist and then hire an associate on one-year fixed-term contracts, or on secondments from their existing employers, for salaries of between £30,000 and £50,000.

Local authorities will use the first cohort to bring in design expertise at a time when almost half of all councils have no in-house design capacity. 

The call for applications for the first cohort was 13 times oversubscribed, with candidates from a diverse range of ages and backgrounds, including planning, urbanism, architecture, conservation, digital innovation and surveying.

Of those that made it through a rigorous and highly competitive selection process, 71 per cent are women, and 24 per cent are BAME.

The associates will be tasked with a range of projects, from setting up council-led housebuilding programmes to shaping masterplans for new garden towns. 

Public Practice, founded by Pooja Agrawal and Finn Williams, is backed by the London Mayor Sadiq Khan as one of the key initiatives in his Good Growth by Design programme. 

The AJ spoke to some of the first Public Practice associates to find out how they are getting on in the first few weeks of their local government roles, or, as one put it, the ‘public sector honeymoon period’.

Meet the associates

Ione Braddick

Pp ione braddick credit tim smyth

Most recently at emerging practice Archio, Ione has joined Epping Forest District Council’s planning and economic development team.

What do you hope to achieve in your year working for a local authority?
As the first in-house design resource in my local authority, this year is about making sure that creating joyful places through ambitious and excellent design is on the agenda at meetings (yes, I want a separate bullet point!), is discussed in relation to cross-cutting strategies, and is embedded in masterplans, applications, and conversations in the corridors.

How do you anticipate the change moving from the public to private sector?
It is a big leap moving from the private architecture sector to the public planning sector, and the first month has been a learning curve like no other. Endless processes, mind-boggling acronyms, extending timescales, BYO teabags, dodgy formatting – it all exists! But no one told me how much I’d enjoy the commitment to democracy that permeates every process, the freedom I have and the power to make small changes that could amount to big things. It might just be the public sector honeymoon period, or it might be the underlying sense that each day I get to advocate for design for the public good, and get to use my professional skills and enthusiasm right at the start of the design process. Either way, the change feels mammoth and uplifting.

Alpa Depani

Pp alpa depani credit tim smyth

Alpa has worked previously for Jestico + Whiles, and will spend a year as a part-time town centre design associate at the London Borough of Sutton.

What do you hope to achieve in your year working for a local authority?
I’ll be working with the team at Sutton to better embed a culture of high-quality design that runs concurrent to the borough’s ambitious programme for good growth. I’ll be doing this through my work on a new public realm guide and design codes for housing on small sites that will address the need to accommodate high density without sacrificing local character, as well as by building design capacity in-house.’

How do you anticipate the change moving from the private to public sector?
It is a big change but it’s made with the support of a talented cohort and experienced team; it’s gratifying to be part of a collective endeavour to prioritise good design in public planning and to have the opportunity in my new role to influence decision-making further upstream to deliver better places.

Tom Sykes 

Pp tom sykes credit tim smyth

Most recently an associate at Burd Haward Architects, Tom will join Transport for London’s Property Development team as a projects design manager.

What do you hope to achieve in your year working for a local authority?
My real hope is that, from design workshops I am setting up through to water cooler conversations, I can help raise the level of design literacy, and pride in good design in the team I work with. I hope that we can making a lasting contribution to how design expertise on the ground can have a really essential influence in local authorities and public procurement bodies, generally raising the level of ambition with which design in the context of the city is approached.

How do you anticipate the change moving from the public to private sector?
I expected a significant change in the scale of focus, moving in to a world of questions that have a wider context, as well as a shift in working language and culture. The best part of the move in to the public sector has been how interested, inquisitive and open my new colleagues are to design conversations – they are genuinely keen to find out how this new voice in the team can contribute.

Rachel Hearn

Pp rachel hearn credit tim smyth

An architect most recently at Stanton Williams Architects, Rachel has joined Havering Council in the role of principal urban design officer.

What do you hope to achieve in your year working for a local authority?
My remit is quite broad – to improve design quality. To help achieve this I am going to be partly focusing how I can empower others to speak about design and in a small way build knowledge across the local authority about both what good design is and how it can bring good growth with local benefits. At a more tangible level I’m hoping to bring a design focus to the estate regeneration projects that are under way, the masterplan for the town centre which is desired, the strategic pre-applications – oh, and to set up a quality review panel to help embed design within the planning process. It’s going to be a busy year!’

How do you anticipate the change moving from the public to private sector?
I’m excited. In the public sector it seems there will be an opportunity to work with the people who create the opportunities for change in the city. Working in design further upstream with policymakers, planners, the regeneration and housing teams will be quite different, but I’m hoping potentially more fulfilling. I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting involved in multiple projects, being the ‘client’ for a change and bringing design to the fore in a wider sense. That said, I imagine the environment will be rather different – I don’t expect there will be InDesign, an in-house coffee machine or any shadow-gap skirting, but on the upside I’m expecting there to be people from a wider range of backgrounds and ages, which will be an interesting change.’

Photography by Tim Smyth

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs

AJ Jobs