Planning for real – Lisa’s lessons from Aurora Planning work experience

Planning for real – Lisa’s lessons from Aurora Planning work experience

by aurora planning

Those of you who keep track of us on our Facebook page and/or read our monthly Spotlights will know that over the summer we took on an intern, Lisa Cossan, to work with us for a few weeks.  As reported in last month’s Spotlights, Lisa has now moved on to get some experience at the opposite end of the organisational size spectrum at Aberdeen City Council.  But, whilst between jobs, she prepared the following blog on what she learnt from her time at Aurora Planning.  It’s a great summary of some of the transferable skills that we believe every planner needs, as well as demonstrating John Keats’ maxim that, “Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced”.
And in breaking news – we’ve just learnt this morning that Lisa has been offered a job with Aberdeenshire Council – so huge congratulations to her!
Lessons learnt
After graduating with an MSc in City Planning and Real Estate Development, I thought it would be beneficial to seek a job placement to put what I had learnt at university into practice.  After contacting Maggie and Pippa at Aurora Planning, they were more than happy to take me on for a month and give me much-needed experience to start my career in planning.
Despite only working with them for four weeks, the experience I gained was invaluable, giving me great insights into what planners do, and a taste of tasks I might be carrying out during the next stage of my career.  Importantly, it also gave me the opportunity to develop and enhance key skills which I can take with me into any future job.  In true blog style I’ve highlighted five of these below: 

1 - Working to an immovable deadline and prioritising tasks

At the time I started working with Maggie and Pippa, they were in the midst of preparing clients’ bids for sites to be allocated in the review of the Aberdeen Local Development Plan.  They had a number of sites and a fixed deadline for submission.  I assisted in undertaking policy research and helping draft supporting statements.  Through getting involved in this, I gained solid experience of working to a fixed deadline and prioritising tasks, particularly challenging whilst coordinating input from a number of different sources.  And, although I had a pretty good understanding of what Local Development Plans are and what they are used for, I also now know about the process of allocating sites in the Plan.

2 - Thoroughness of research

Another area of work I was involved in was assessing planning prospects and appeals, including carrying out thorough research into specific policies that would apply to individual cases.  This helped me become familiar with utilising tools, such as the planning portal, and gave me confidence in navigating policy documents such as Local Development Plans and Supplementary Guidance.  Undertaking this research honed my analysis skills, as a critical eye was necessary when analysing which policies were relevant and how they may or may not support the proposal.  Additionally, an element of thinking creatively was needed in some cases to ensure that the client’s proposal had the best chance of planning permission being granted.  Thus, it has also given me great problem-solving experience and skills.

3 - Attention to detail

Filling out planning and listed consent applications is part and parcel of daily routine for many planners working in the private sector, and something I was very much involved in when working at Aurora Planning.  Getting accustomed to how the forms are set out and learning the correct way to complete them required me to develop a keen eye for detail, particularly given the problems it could cause later down the line if mistakes were made.  Thoroughness and accuracy were essential, and experience of completing these applications allowed me to develop my skills in becoming very detailed-orientated.   

4 - Strategic focus

As Aurora Planning is a small enterprise with all operations run by its two directors, it gave me valuable insight into the behind-the-scenes of how a business is run.  Specifically, I gained knowledge of the importance of prompt invoicing of clients, budgeting, marketing and GDPR compliancy.  Essentially, it allowed me to understand the importance of strategic thinking; the need to look to the future and anticipate potential hurdles and how they may be overcome or avoided, as well as how important this strategic focus is in a young business.  This attained skill of strategic planning is not only relevant in a business context, but can be applied to future projects that I may be involved in, as strategic thinking is crucial when trying to plan and manage the urban environment in a sustainable way. This is a skill which I can absolutely apply in any professional planning setting.

5 - Excellent customer service

I was lucky enough to meet a range of clients (including property developers and architects), as well as with Council planning officers and members of the public engaged in the planning system, improving my awareness of the roles planners might play when dealing with these distinct stakeholders. Speaking to these various groups of people in different circumstances, including in meetings and at community engagement events, impressed on me the importance of providing excellent customer service at all times and gave me the opportunity to hone my communication skills to do so.  At the same time, attending these meetings allowed me to observe and understand how to negotiate with others – something that is a big part of a planner’s job. 
I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Maggie and Pippa at Aurora Planning and cannot thank them enough for the opportunity to do so.  I hope this blog shows that, in the short space of time I was there, I learnt a huge amount from working with them both and that the experience has allowed me to dip my toes into the world of planning.  I feel that wherever it is that I end up working next, the knowledge and skills gained from Aurora Planning will allow me to approach my work with an enhanced sense of confidence.
Oh, and of course I also learnt to kayak and about how tides are caused by the moon’s gravitational pull – thanks to David at DS Development Solutions for that!
Thanks for reading!

We wish Lisa all the best in her new job!  Meantime, to find out about how aurora planning can assist you in any aspect of the planning process, please visit or email  And, to receive future blogs and updates by email, please click here

Back to blog →

Find out more about our services here, or get in touch to discuss how we can help you.

Get in touch