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REDS Member Highlight: TheTownPlanner

Meet Jane Shepherd, Owner and Director of TheTownPlanner an Independent Planning Consultancy which she runs with her husband, Peter, in Grantown on Spey.

How long has your business been on the go?

The business has been running for 2 years.

How many people are in the team at TTP or is this a solo venture?

TheTownPlanner is a limited company with myself and my husband Peter as Directors. I am the professional Chartered Planner. Peter leads on all the back-office work.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

Having worked for over thirty years as a Council Planner covering every aspect of town planning in a variety of urban and rural areas and having succeeded at getting to the top of the career ladder, it was time for me to do something different.

Experiencing planning work from the ‘other side’ with new perspectives has given me a new lease of life within my chosen profession. It has also enabled me to use my extensive knowledge, experience, and ‘insider’s’ knowledge of how the system works at Councils to the benefit of clients. I can speak in fluent town planning, which is useful when persuading Council planners!

How did you get your business to where it is today?

A lot of research, planning, training, and hard work!

What is one of the hardest challenges you have had to overcome (or are still overcoming) to run and sustain your business?

The biggest challenge has been the general misunderstanding about what Planners do, and therefore what I do and the value I can bring.

There is a common misconception that every Planner plans towns and works at the Council. In reality, Planners deal with a vast range of planning matters (advice, applications, appeals, enforcement, policy and heritage conservation) and work in all areas (rural and urban).

There is a separate but equally important role for independent Planning Consultants to help and advise people through the formal planning legislation and systems. We project manage cases through the system and can also work alongside other professionals to promote the best outcome for the client.

The planning decision-making process is equally misunderstood resulting in clients not realising that the best professional to appoint to help them is a Planner. The clue is in the job title! All planning applications are tested and decided against planning policy. My main role is to analyse and interpret policy and then argue the best case for (or in some cases against) granting planning permission, other related consents, or enforcement action.

What are some of your favourite elements of running a small rural business here in Scotland?

The luxury of being able to work at home (in an office with stunning views). Planning work involves carrying out site visits and meeting clients and this allows us to get out there into our unique natural Scottish environment. It's the best of both worlds!

Do you think it's important for rural businesses to work together?

It is important to fly the flag for collaborative work amongst rural businesses. We need to support each other and use local businesses. Otherwise the option for buying local products and services will be lost. Rural areas then become unsustainable potentially leading to withdrawal of other public services and infrastructure.

What are your ambitions for your business?

The ambition is for TheTownPlanner to become the go-to independent professional consultancy service throughout Scotland. The first stage is conquering rural Scotland!

Why did you choose to join the REDS Directory?

REDS is an essential platform providing support and enabling collaboration and promotion of the rural business community. A lot of emphasis is placed on urban areas in terms of policy, support, and funding. This leaves rural businesses as invisible and unable to compete on an unlevel playing field. Geographically and individually our businesses are disadvantaged and therefore limited in being able to have a strong voice. As a group we have more ‘power’ to influence policy making and funding decisions.

We joined to be part of the rural business community, to gain from the sharing of knowledge and skills, and to network with like minded business people experiencing similar issues. Joining the Directory was part of our strategy to get TheTownPlanner name out there as the best option for clients to get help with planning matters. Ultimately, the intention is to gain more clients and business and to connect and collaborate with other complementary businesses in rural Scotland.

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