Essex County Council’s (ECC) Place Services team are the leading public sector provider of environmental assessment, planning, design, and management services. Place Services support their clients to protect and enhance the environment, deliver excellent value for money, and create better places.
The historic environment services team within Place Services are responsible for balancing the demands of development and conservation, ensuring growth and management of the historic environment, maximising the benefits of heritage assets, and enhancing historic places. We met with Sam, a Built Heritage Consultant, to find out what a day in her life at ECC looks like:
08:45am – I log on and review any incoming consultation requests from the various Local Planning Authorities we provide specialist-built heritage advice to.
09:15am – I review my diary and ensure that all project and consultation deadlines and targets for today (and the rest of the week) can be met.
09:30am – Our weekly Historic Environment Team Meeting. This is always a valuable opportunity to discuss good news stories, changes or updates to planning legislation, policy, or guidance, and share technical knowledge and best practice we’ve recently come across. It’s also when I get to hear what our other colleagues in the Historic Environment Team have been working on.
10:00am – The Built Heritage Team stay on for our weekly workshop. Here we can workshop planning and/or listed building applications and get advice from our colleagues and management team on how best to assess and respond. These can be large scale developments, proposals to Grade ll* or Grade l listed buildings, or sometimes something so unusual we just need a second opinion and some guidance!
10:45am – I work through a number of planning and listed building applications I have been consulted on and provide a written response which enables the Delegated Case Officer to determine them. The number I can respond to in a given day depends on the nature, scale, and complexity of each proposal, and no two are alike.
12:20pm – Lunch! If I am working from home I may go for a walk or do a home yoga class too.
13:00pm – I host a weekly online Conservation Surgery for one of the Local Planning Authorities I work closely with. Their planning team can drop in and review casework, discuss wider planning and heritage issues, and seek specific built heritage advice.
14:00pm – I join a multi-disciplinary and cross-authority MS Teams meeting to discuss a Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Project we have recently been consulted on; its important to ensure a strategic and cohesive approach is taken to ensure the delivery of a high-quality scheme which has the potential to impact the built historic environment in a number of districts and authorities.
15:10pm– I am called into a meeting with our management team to discuss whether I have the capacity to act as an Expert Witness on behalf of a Local Planning Authority at an upcoming Public Inquiry. We also review the proposals and appeal documents and collectively agree that we find we can confidently defend the authority’s decision to refuse consent as the proposal causes harm to heritage assets.
15:30pm – I put the finishing touches to a Conservation Area Appraisal Management Plan and circulate to colleagues for a peer review ahead of submitting to the relevant Local Planning Authority for comment.
17:15pm – Tomorrow is a full day of site visits, so I check my schedule, make calls to confirm if necessary, and make sure I am prepared and everything I need is packed and ready to go.
19:00pm – I attend an online lecture by the Society of the Protection of Ancient Buildings on ‘Bricks & Mortar’ and maintaining historic brickwork.
As you can see, life as a Built Heritage Consultant is incredibly varied, with an opportunity to work alongside colleagues and specialists daily, consistently learning from them. The Historic Environment Team at Place Services is expanding and we are looking for talented individuals to join us in safeguarding our built heritage; if you would like to find out more about what we do and view our current vacancies, please click here.