The Bartlett School of Planning
BPLN0086 Management for Built Environment
The course work takes the form of a case study report in response to a scenario set
out below. There are three options. You need to complete a report on one of the
The scenario is set within our mythical Council, High Vale District Council.
Matilda Weaver, the Head of Planning, will take the report you write to the Council’s
Senior Management Team. You need to include a recommended course of action.
The course work should be a maximum of 2,000 words in length. Word counts
should be adhered to. Check the BSc Handbook for guidance and penalties.
The specific criteria for the assessment of the coursework are set out below (copied
from the Module Outline). Equal weight will be accorded to each of these criteria.
• The readability of the report, for the audience for which you are writing. This
includes not only the written work itself, but also the report structure, the use
of diagrams or charts, and the layout of the report.
• Demonstrating that you have taken into account all the relevant matters, and
not taken into account any irrelevant matters,
• The way you evaluate the issues, using critical thinking and logical argument.
• The approach you take in weighing and balancing the different issues in
reaching your conclusion
• The deliverability of your proposed recommendation
You are strongly encouraged to discuss the preparation of the coursework with your
tutor(s) before submission. Sessions will be held in class and students can make
other arrangements to discuss their work or can receive feedback/ question
responses by email and telephone.
Students should not expect direct guidance on specific coursework content as part
of this support. There is the opportunity to discuss coursework in weeks 6-10 and
there will be an examination review session in week 10.
The course work is due for submission at the start of Term 3: 5pm on Tuesday 26th
April. Submission is through Turnitin on Moodle. Feedback can be expected within
Please refer to the BSc course handbook for further information on submission
procedures and please note the School of Planning Office opening hours, which are
Monday-Friday 10:00-13:00 and 15:00-17:00. There are penalties for work
submitted late without good reason.
Scenario – general background
High Vale District Council is located in the South East about 45 mins away from
London. It has a population of about 130,000, so relatively large.
The Council’s Chief Executive is Satish Karishmurthy.
He has two Corporate Directors,
• Yvonne Southgate is Corporate Services Director, with responsibility for all
the internal services (Finance, HR, Corporate Policy, Communications,
• James North is the Corporate Director for Economic Sustainability, with
responsibility for all the external facing services (Planning, Leisure, Property,
Environment, Community (the housing stock was sold off some years ago so
there isn’t a housing function any more).)
There are 8 or so Heads of Service that report to the corporate directors. Matilda
Weaver, Head of Planning, reports to James North.
Every week, Satish holds a meeting of the Senior Management Team (SMT).
Convention would suggest that SMT would be Satish, Yvonne and James. But
Satish – who has only been in post about a year – believes that such a small team
cannot possibly have a wide enough perspective, and so, unusually, he invites all
the heads of service to attend.
It makes the meeting quite large, but Satish is also keen to edge the Council’s
culture away from quite an old fashioned ‘command and control’ culture to
something more inclusive. However, as the Council is quite high performing, he is
careful not to make any changes too rapidly or in too big steps, because he does
not want to risk destabilising the steady ship he has inherited. Evolution, not
revolution, is his watchword – and ‘no surprises’.
In accordance with good governance, elected members (Councillors) do not attend
SMT. Satish meets the Leader each week. The Cabinet Members and Committee
Chairs meet separately with each Head of Service, and the Corporate Directors as
necessary. There is a monthly briefing meeting with the Cabinet and the Senior
Matilda’s has a good working relationship with the Planning Cabinet Member, John
Davidson, and with the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Miranda Neilson –
although she leaves the day to day liaison on committee matters to her
Development Manager, Nick Alexander.
The planning service has a conventional structure.
Nick Alexander is the Manager of the Development Management service, that deals
with planning applications. He has about 20-25 staff, in 4 teams
• Two area teams – which have half the district area each – that deal with
smaller planning applications
• A majors team – which deals with larger planning applications
• And enforcement team – whose job it is to take action when development
takes place without permission.
Mary Yanifakis is the Policy Manager, with about a dozen staff. She has 3 teams
• A policy team, responsible for the local plan, site briefs, and monitoring
development in the District
• An infrastructure team, which collects CIL and recommends how it is spent,
as well as writing funding bids for infrastructure related to the local plan.
• The Specialists team, whose team leader is Harry Rubetkin. His team is
made up of ecologists, landcape officers, urban designers, tree officers and
historic conservation officers.
Pippa Allinson is the Building Control Manager with about 10 staff. Her service is
relatively ‘stand alone’ and does not get that involved with most of the planning
Adam Melrose is the Support Manager. He had about 15 staff, but needs to reduce
it to about 10 for budget reasons. His teams register planning applications, issue
decision notices, book building control site visits, and so much more. He is closely
involved with the work of Nick and Pippa, but has little to do with Mary.
Option 1: Achieving quality through staff engagement
Matilda Weaver is concerned that the front line staff seem reluctant to come forward
with suggestions of how to improve the services that they offer to the public. This is
particularly relevant in the planning applications service (development
management), where staff will routinely use the same systems and processes, and
could well be better placed to see improvements that management just won’t
However, the culture of the organisation is one where the expectation is that service
improvements are driven by management through the assessment of numerical
performance data against performance indicators.
Matilda has done some research into quality circles, TQM, kaizen and six sigma,
and would like to see if she can use some of these ideas in her service. But she
suspects her peers will not be familiar with this approach, and she is concerned that
if she just starts doing things differently in her department, some of her colleagues
on the senior management team may not see that as appropriate to their corporate
Matilda discusses the issue with her boss, James, in her 1:1, and they agree that
she will bring a short paper to SMT setting out some background to quality circles,
TQM, kaizen and six sigma, what benefits they might bring, and how she would like
to use her development management service as a pilot, including some ideas on
how she would go about implementing it.
Matilda knows that you are studying a module on management and leadership as
part of your planning course, and asks you to pull together the paper for her.
Option 2: Appropriate structure for additional specialist resource
At the end of an SMT meeting recently, there was some informal chat about the
capital programme. The property and estates team currently buy in external advice
on urban design and planning for their development projects, and they were
thinking of getting some in-house staff. The head of leisure was also thinking about
getting in some landscape and ecology staff to drive improvements to biodiversity
in the parks and open spaces, and would put in a bid for CIL funding to cover these
This was news to Matilda – who already has a team including urban designers,
landscape officers and ecologists. They are in the specialist team with the
arboriculturalists (tree officers) and historic conservation. They are all fully occupied
with planning work, most of which is to do with major applications, with a little bit of
policy. They recover their costs through the fees paid for planning applications.
Many of the specialists have more than one area of expertise. So the ecologist is
also a landscape officer. Another landscape officer is also an urban designer, and
another urban designer doubles as the Historic Conservation Officer. The two tree
officers don’t get that involved in the other areas of work. There are about 8 staff in
all. They work well as a team, they support and cover for one another when there
are resourcing difficulties, because they have so many ‘dual skills’.
Instinctively Matilda feels that if the Council was to bring in more people with these
skills, that it would make sense for them to become an ‘internal consultancy’
servicing planning, property and leisure. A bigger team would give more resilience,
and also potentially greater job satisfaction because there would be a range of
work, not ‘just’ planning work.
But she also had enough experience to know that such a group could just be pulled
from pillar to post as each service demanded more than their fair share of the
resource. And the planning service may ‘loose out’ as it may not be seen as ‘as
important’ as other areas, even though she would have the budget through planning
fees. And there would be real conflicts to manage – could you have the same team
advising the property team (effectively the in-house developer) as was giving advice
to the planning service on planning applications and policy proposals?
She knows you are undertaking a management and leadership module as part of
your planning course, and asks you to draft a report that she can take to SMT
setting out the key factors to take into account in organisational design. She also
asks you to include your own view of what would be the best solution, and how you
would go about implementing it – if SMT agreed.
Option 3: Improving delegation and performance management
SMT is discussing how to improve the performance management system. The
current system has been in place for years, and tends to be used in a way that all
officers with the same job description have the same objectives. The Head of HR
knows that the organisation could get so much more out of the performance
management system if they took a more flexible approach.
Matilda is aware that a number of staff in Nick’s service feel the same way – that
just because they are all development management officers doesn’t mean that they
should all have the same objective – to determine planning applications in the
statutory timescale. Different officers have different levels of experience, and also
some have developed expertise in some areas more than other colleagues have
They feel that they are ‘micro-managed’. Everyone is treated the same way,
regardless of their skill or experience. When the case is allocated, everyone is given
an indication of whether the case should be approved or refused, everyone has to
report back to a more senior officer after the site visit on the key issues and what
they think the outcome should be, and everyone then has the final decision fully
double checked before a decision is issued.
On the other hand, Nick has run his team this way for years, and with good results.
He has good numerical performance in terms of getting the cases through on time,
low levels of complaints about inconsistent decisions, never lost an ombudsman
case in his entire career. The more experienced staff are the ones who check the
work, and the more junior staff do the work.
Matilda discusses the situation with Nick in one of their 1:1s, and they agree that
they could offer to the Head of HR that the development management service
becomes a pilot for a new way of doing performance appraisal. They know that you
are studying a module in management and leadership as part of your planning
course, and so they agree to ask you to pull a paper together for SMT.
You are asked to prepare a report setting out what the key factors are in deciding
how to delegate, and how performance management can be used to underpin that.
You are also to indicate what you suggest is the best way forward, and how you
would go about implementing it.