Wakefield Council – Service Director Planning, Transportation and Highways
Thank you for your interest in this essential director role within the Regeneration and Economic Growth directorate at Wakefield Council.
We are a high-performing authority with big ambitions for the future. If you are appointed to this job you will be joining a large, well-regarded Metropolitan District Council serving 340,000 residents across the City of Wakefield, Pontefract, Castleford, Knottingley, Featherstone and Normanton. We have one of the fastest growing economies within the Leeds city region, which is itself the UK’s biggest economic area outside London.
We’re offering a career-defining opportunity to lead a large planning, transport and highways service with a requirement for forward looking candidates wishing to make maximum impact on a wide-ranging regeneration agenda in the city and across the district. With a high-value devolution deal for Leeds City Region firmly on the agenda of the new Government, making a strong regional impact and securing a good deal for Wakefield from this process will be a huge opportunity for the successful candidate.
You will be joining a high-performing service with high levels of political accountability, and a constant need to prioritise local residents in the delivery of regeneration and growth across the Wakefield District. You will also be welcomed to a relatively new Directorate Management Team with big ambition, vision and a strong team spirit.
So for the successful candidate we will make high demands of you, but the career opportunities from this job could be limitless.
I look forward to your application and to meeting you during the recruitment.
Corporate Director Regeneration and Economic Growth
Wakefield is a place of significance and surprises. It is a vibrant Yorkshire city just 15 minutes from Leeds, close to Manchester and Sheffield and with the Peak District National Park on its doorstep; a place of great connections in every sense. Our city is made up of, and surrounded by, thriving communities, breathtaking Yorkshire landscape, leading businesses, great brands, history and heritage. Wakefield people delight in being part of a city but also a community and our compactness doesn’t compromise our clout. We are proud of being different and even a bit quirky; where else would you find a Rhubarb Festival and Liquorice Festival! And we have a creative gene and cultural pedigree second to none, being birthplace to the world-renowned sculptors and artists Dame Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore; this inspiration, innovation and imagination is brought to life today at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Hepworth Gallery. Wakefield is so many stories to experience.
Wakefield Council is widely recognised externally as a high-performing authority. Driven by its ambition, talent and desire to improve the lives of residents, the Council has capitalised on its strong connections. A key part of the Leeds City Region, Wakefield is determined to tap into the benefits of the wider region to strengthen its offer to attract investment. Its success to date is clearly demonstrated by the globally-recognised brands that have chosen to make Wakefield their home – Haribo, Coca Cola and Bosch Rexroth to name just a few.
Wakefield is also a great place to live with a plethora of high-quality affordable housing, successful and attractive city and town centres, an enviable commuting experience , and a unique culture and heritage offer.
This all just highlights the importance of this role in the Council’s success. Attracting the right person into this role is essential in helping Wakefield Council to realise these ambitions. Attracting someone who understands the role that planning plays in wider regeneration and the Council’s ability to shape development is critical.
Moving forward, the Council has ambitions for residential growth and sites like City Fields, and the Castleford Growth corridor will be central points of this. The Council is set to benefit from further plans from the Government around devolution and the incoming candidate will play an important role in shaping the conversation around transport and infrastructure funding in West Yorkshire. The Governments Manifesto has stated their intention to invest capital funding into West Yorkshire for transport and infrastructure and this role will be an integral part of making this happen.
The role will work closely with the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Economic Growth, the wider Management Team and elected Members. It will be responsible for Planning and Transport Policy, Development Management and Highways Network Management.
It is directly responsible for three Service Managers, a gross revenue budget of £29m and a total headcount of around 250 staff.
We have summarised some of the main areas of responsibility within the role below:
Planning and Transport Policy
The Planning function is responsible for processing a high volume of planning applications and the draft Local Plan is projecting 1400 to 1500 houses per annum, so it is a busy service that needs to constantly find ways to improve.
The Planning function is seen as a high performing team. It performs well with major and minor applications and currently ranks well with MHCLG in housing delivery tests, speed of planning applications and has a good track record on consent through to delivery. The current service is recognised alongside Leeds and Sheffield as best performing in the region.
The post holder will work closely with Elected Members and need to ensure the planning function’s reputation at a political level is always positive. The role will be closely aligned to a range of Council driven, and district wide, regeneration programmes as well as ensuring that issues in individual wards are listened to and resolved.
The reputation of the planning service with the private sector and developers is really important. Currently the service is seen as high performing and an enabler to growth, so it is important that its reputation is maintained whilst also ensuring that planning enforcement and regulation is also seen as highly important. The role requires someone who understands the relationship between planning and regeneration, and how you ensure that the regulatory requirements of the planning function are not forgotten. Whilst also ensuring it supports and drives growth. The post holder will be closely involved in negotiating big development deals, and helping to navigate planning policy is a big part of this.
The Local Plan
This role will be responsible for helping the Council adopt its new Local Plan. Council approval on the plan was agreed in November 2019 and now sits with the Planning Inspectorate. The Council is awaiting confirmation in the New Year of when the inspection will start, likely to be February or March. The individual who is successful in this role will arrive mid way through the process and will need to get up to speed quickly on helping to get the plan adopted, ideally by the end of 2021.
In addition to all of the exciting projects and programmes, this individual will need to be interested in, and care, about planning enforcement and getting into the detail of certain planning cases. The Council is a victim of its own success in places with high levels of development and housing growth, particularly on brown field sites, causing increased interest from residents. The successful candidate will need to ensure they are committed to working with their teams and Members to ensure that the Council is responsive to the needs of its residents.
The Council is currently adding additional resource to increase capacity within Planning Enforcement. Elected Members want to make sure that the volume of casework coming from such large development programmes are met and residents are engaged around planning enforcement. Members want a planning function that is pro growth, whilst also fulfilling its statutory requirements and meeting the needs of residents and protecting the Council’s heritage.
Highways and Transport
Wakefield Council’s Highway services are delivered through a range of commissioned contracts. These are large, high profile contracts that need to be managed. The Council has a thin client function and it is important that the individual coming into this role is able to maintain this performance. The service is important to Members and is key to unlocking the economic prosperity of the region.
In addition to this, the Council has a large street lighting PFI contract with Amey which needs delivering.
The Transport and Highways Service covers all the transport and fleet services for the entire Council, managing a large fleet of vehicles, a maintenance function and a large in house workforce. The Council is just in the process of relocating the transport depot, and this individual will need to help create a new state of the art base for these services.
Transport Fund 2 is another major priority within the role, the South Featherstone Link Road, improved infrastructure for public transport and accessibility to employment and leisure destinations will all need to be driven forward by the candidate in this role.
In addition to all of this, Wakefield Council has declared a climate emergency and committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. This role will play a major part in making this happen. Looking for innovative and creative solutions to change behaviour and how services are delivered will be critical in reaching this ambitious target. Managing transport, and ensuring that transportation is carbon neutral will be the responsibility of this individual. The Council has already announced a number of electric charging points, but more innovation will be needed, and this role will play a leading role with this.
What’s unique about this role now and here?
It is a really exciting time to be joining Wakefield Council, and a time in which this post can help shape the future direction of travel for the council and West Yorkshire. The post holder will arrive and immediately have to set about getting the Local Plan adopted, working regionally to attracting funding from Government into West Yorkshire, and handle negotiations on the Leeds City Region growth deal.
The individual will be given a platform on a national and regional basis, and will be joining a region that works collaboratively. One of the best things about the West Yorkshire region is its size. It offers scale without being so large that it is hard to operate within.
Wakefield Council is a positive place to work, and a Council that has a focus on growth. The canvas is broad and with good land supply, the agenda is for driving regeneration and growth within the District. You will be joining a positive and focussed leadership team and a Council that is determined to maximise the outcomes for its residents. With a relatively new leadership team and a newly elected Leader, there is a lot of exciting energy and a willingness to take positive action.
Why will this role be career enhancing for someone?
Aside from joining a Council with pedigree and all of the exciting projects and programmes that this role will be responsible for, it will also be a career enhancing opportunity for the successful candidate. It will provide exposure on a regional and national scale, helping to build your profile and reputation within the sector as well as increased exposure to developers and the private sector. For the right candidate you will be able to quickly add a list of achievements to your CV and will help develop your credentials for a Corporate Director role.
What will some of the challenges and obstacles be?
As all local authorities have, Wakefield has had to deal with austerity. Over the last few years Wakefield has been proactive around budget management and is in a relatively good place, but it doesn’t take long for that to change. Wakefield is in an economically deprived region with high levels of demand on its services. Understanding the context of this and the corporate pressures that come as a result is really important.
In Wakefield, growth isn’t just for the sake of growth, it is to drive better outcomes for communities. The planning process plays an important part of this and helps to rebalance economic prosperity across the district.
Viability is another challenge within this role, the Council has plenty of land supply, but the viability of certain sites makes it more challenging and there is an important role for planning to play in this. With a lot of the brownfield land being former industrial sites or mining land, there is a need to decontaminate sites, build infrastructure to unlock land, and work in partnership with the private sector to ensure sites are viable and brought forward.
With national planning policy constantly changing, it is important that this individual stays up to date on legislation. Once the Local Plan is adopted, it is essential that the national planning policy frameworks doesn’t derail the Council’s plans, and this role will need to ensure that they are responding to this.
The Government continues to monitor planning performance and this has a big impact on how the Council is perceived. The successful candidate will be inheriting a well run service and following in the footsteps of a former Service Director who was well regarded internally and externally. You will need to quickly build relationships, sustain performance and ensure that the reputation of the planning function with Members, residents and private sector is maintained.
We are looking for an ambitious and driven individual who wants to join, and lead, a high performing set of services. You will be RTPI qualified and have previously managed planning services. You will understand planning and development management, and be able to quickly get up to speed in a service that processes a high volume of applications each year.
The ideal candidate will understands the partnership environment and can see how their role plays into the wider Regeneration and Economic Growth Directorate. This person will understand and demonstrate techniques to build engagement with communities and residents, and shape services that meet their needs. You will be excited to join an authority with a big growth agenda and will have a passion for regeneration and the role that planning plays within this.
In addition to this, you will be need to demonstrate good experience in working closely with Members and the private sector and ideally having managed commissioned contracts before.
To apply for the role please click here
Or, for more information or an informal chat about the role please call Anthony Lewis on 07747318128.