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Q&A: Talking with Jacobs Senior Town Planner Lucy May

We caught up with Senior Town Planner Lucy May to talk about her team’s Royal Town Planning Institute award, her career in STEAM and what inspires her.

Meet Senior Town Planner Lucy May – part of Jacobs’ U.K. Planning team, one the largest providers of consenting resource capability nationally, whose work is helping clients to reprioritize the use of spaces to create more active, resilient and inclusive cities and communities.

Lucy and the team have been named In-house Planning Team at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2021. The RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence are the most established and respected awards in the U.K. planning industry. Running for over 40 years, they celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society.

RTPI President Wei Yang FRTPI said: “The fact the even during the pandemic we received so many entries is a testament to how the planning profession across the U.K. and around the world has stepped up to deliver innovative, place-based solutions to the challenges of health and wellbeing, climate change and the biodiversity decline, as well as housing and economic growth.”

For this feature we connected with Lucy on her award with the Planning team, her STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) career journey to date and what inspires her.

After completing her undergraduate degree in Town Planning, Lucy joined Jacobs in 2016 as a Graduate Urban Designer. Lucy has since had a very agile career, recently finishing two years in the Growth and Sales team as a Sales Operational Professional and now working with the Town Planning team on both projects and smaller bidding opportunities.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEAM?

My parents met while undertaking a Town Planning degree, so in many ways my career path was chosen for me! Growing up I was surrounded by interest and passion for the built environment and social sciences which triggered my interest in how spaces work (and don’t work) for everyone and I wanted to be part of the industry that helped create fun, vibrant and inclusive spaces.

Tell us more about your role as Senior Town Planner

Working in the Town Planning team, I look at both planning and sales. Predominantly, I act as Senior Town Planner on both small and large infrastructure projects including a widening scheme for a highways client and bridge replacement in the South of England. Using my recent experience in Growth and Sales, I also lead on bids and proposals for Water & Environment and author for larger proposals.

What’s your favorite part of your role? What inspires you most about it?

Being able to work on both multi-disciplinary projects and bid proposals I get to meet and work with so many interesting people, both in-house and external to Jacobs. Through meeting people outside of my immediate profession and working on schemes in differing disciplines, I am challenged to think differently, continuously educate myself and grow a supportive network. Since starting my most recent role in November 2020, I have led a water bid proposal, started working on a motorway scheme, submitted an application for a new bridge and authored a metro proposal response.

What is a typical day like in your role?

Working across different projects and proposals, no day is ever the same! My project work can involve anything from advising a client on how to approach and respond to planning applications surrounding a DCO scheme, to presenting to 200+ project colleagues and client teams on Inclusion and Diversity.

Tell us more about why the team won the Royal Town Planning Institute's In-house Planning Team of the Year Award?

We have such a dynamic team that gets involved in a mix and scale of projects across Jacobs. From highways and rail to nuclear power stations, our team understands how to secure consents for infrastructure through advising and challenging projects, right from project mobilization to construction.

Your most interesting career moment?

In 2018, I attended the opening of the London Transport Museum’s ‘Future Engineer’ exhibition alongside software engineers, civil engineers and others. Interviewed by small news channels and media outlets at the opening, I discussed diversity in the industry and why I believe exhibits exploring built environment professions are vital to attracting young women into the industry.

What’s something you learned in the last week?

I read a great article by The Guardian that talked about how our cities are built for 6ft-tall men with the Architect Le Corbusier informing design frameworks through referencing handsome policemen, saying that ‘’the good-looking men, such as policemen, are always 6ft-tall’ and that our streets, door handles and everything in between should be designed with them as a benchmark. Which, as we know more than 70 years later, hasn’t quite worked for the majority of our population!

Your most proud career moment?

In April, I organized and chaired a Royal Town Planning Institute and Women in Planning (WiP) event to discuss inclusive spaces and the associated barriers and opportunities. We had an amazing line-up of women in the industry, with a hero of mine, Dr Ellie Cosgrave participating which was an ultimate ‘pinch me’ career moment.

For me, it was a full circle moment having researched gender inequalities in the built environment for my undergraduate dissertation and being a gender equality advocate on projects and through my work with WiP London.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

I’ve recently moved to Brighton and therefore spend every spare minute I have by the sea, either sea kayaking (trying to sea kayak…new hobby) or drinking a cold beer on the beach!

People would be surprised to know that I….

…organized a trip to Sierra Leone in 2019, taking seven Jacobs’ colleagues with relevant technical disciplines to help masterplan, design and implement small infrastructure schemes in a new town including flood defenses and a football field.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?

When I joined Jacobs, I had just graduated from Newcastle University and didn’t have a solid foundation in London. Through a Jacobs Employee Network, I met a huge cohort of colleagues in a similar stage of their life and nearly five years later those colleagues are some of my favorite people in and outside of Jacobs. For me, it’s this sense of community and friendship that makes Jacobs what it is.

More about our Planning team and the RTPI award:

Our winning Planning team includes specialists working in town & country planning, development consent orders, U.K. Parliament Hybrid Bills, marine planning, national & local policy support, local planning, city-wide strategies, socio-economic assessments and masterplanning. Working across highways, rail, aviation, energy and residential, they collaborate with environmental specialists, architects and stakeholder communications and other disciplines to provide planning advice and support across project lifecycles.

The judges commented that: “Jacobs is a team with strong delivery and ability to get projects over the line. There is positive work being done by this planning team to develop and apply new approaches, which is delivering positive outcomes in terms of project delivery at pace.”

Join #OurJacobs team

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.

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