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Alumna of the month - February 2010

Claire Robinson
MA in Planning, Policy and Practice, 2008

Fiona Bowman

London South Bank University (LSBU) played an important role in helping develop the career of Claire Robinson our Alumna of the Month.  Her talent was recognised in her studies and she was supported to produce an article for a journal in conjunction with her inspirational tutor, Neil Adams.

Claire states about her current position:

Thanks to LSBU, I am currently employed as a senior planner within the enforcement team at Rochford District Council, which was a position I was promoted to after receiving my Masters degree. Although my current role is not related to regeneration, which was the specialist subject of my masters degree, I do have aspirations to at some time in the future proceed with a career in the field of regeneration, which I would not have realised had it not been for LSBU.

Claire’s role as a planning enforcement officer for Rochford District Council involves the investigation of possible breaches of planning control. This requires her to visit sites to gather evidence, negotiate with landowners, take legal action if a resolution cannot be reached and act as an expert witness at inquiries. Due to the environment of the Rochford district that is approximately 80% Green Belt, Claire would be dealing with unauthorised uses in the Green Belt (e.g. scrap yards), unauthorised work to listed buildings and extensions of domestic gardens into agricultural land.

Claire graduated from LSBU in the summer of 2008 after two and a half years studying for a part time Masters degree in Planning, Policy and Practice. Prior to this she graduated from Queen Mary College, University of London in 2005 with a BA (hons) degree in Geography. It was whilst studying for her Geography degree that she developed an interest in town planning, LSBU provided her the opportunity to successfully progress with this subject area.

Claire provides an insight into the type of investigations she undertakes:

I have been directly involved in the cessation of an unauthorised scrap yard located at the very end of a rural lane in the Green Belt. This was causing noise disturbance to the residents within this lane due to the continuous traffic movements that the scrap yard generated and the equipment used on site and was wholly inappropriate within this tranquil rural area. I worked together with my team leader undertaking visits to the site on numerous occasions, preparing and serving a legal notice against the scrap yard and preparing evidence to produce at an inquiry against this activity. The Council won this case and the owner had to stop operating this site as a scrap yard. Whilst there are still enforcement issues remaining with this site which I am trying to assist in resolving the operator has now relocated the main scrap yard activity to an authorised site on a local industrial estate.

During her final year at LSBU, and primarily during the production of her dissertation, LSBU played an important part in her overall development as a planner. Her tutor, Neil Adams, was extremely supportive and inspirational. After reading her dissertation, which studied universities and regeneration, Neil encouraged her to produce an article for a special edition of the Local Economy journal. It was with Neil’s guidance and support that they produced an article together based on the findings of her dissertation that was published in November 2008.

Her tutor’s encouragement and investment in Claire’s interests is another example of how LSBU puts its students first.

The full title of the article Claire and Neil produced is 'Unlocking the Potential: The Role of Universities in Pursuing Regeneration and Promoting Sustainable Communities'. The article examined the contribution of universities to urban regeneration and to local communities in England. 54 universities in England were used for the research and the 54 universities were selected as they were located within local authority areas that were eligible for the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF).

The NRF has been replaced by the Working Neighbourhoods Fund (WNF) that is a dedicated fund for local councils and communities to develop more concentrated, community-led approaches to getting people in the most deprived areas of England back to work.

The article concludes that whilst many universities in England have been involved in regeneration and community initiatives, there is potential for more substantial and influential involvement, which could have significant benefits for the country's deprived areas and communities.

Claire is an active person playing for two netball teams and is a member of a squash league. She enjoys socialising with friends and reading. Claire is particularly fond of furthering her planning knowledge, as planning is such a diverse subject, by regularly reading Planning Magazine and by being a licentiate member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.