A day in the life of… associate director of design and planning Pete Bland

Pete Bland (49) is an associate director of design and planning for award-winning, Tonbridge-based homebuilder Millwood Designer Homes. He has always had an eye for design but began his career in the housebuilding industry as a site manager. Having decided on a change of direction in his career, he studied a BA Honours Degree in Planning Studies at Oxford Brookes University and then became a design manager. Pete worked for Millwood Designer Homes for three years from 2003 until 2006 and returned in 2010 to fulfil the associate director position.

During his time at Millwood, Pete has enjoyed being directly involved in numerous projects from one-off executive houses to high density urban schemes.

8.00am: Arrive at the office. I always start the day checking my emails. I like to action emails as swiftly as possible, as I find responding promptly avoids letting one slip through the net.

9.00am: Being involved in design, I am constantly troubleshooting design problems. Site layouts can be particularly challenging when taking into account site features such as trees, levels, proximities of neighbouring houses and existing utility easements. Designing a bespoke development is like completing a complex but incomplete jigsaw puzzle, fitting the various pieces together and then designing the missing ones. There is a great sense of reward when I visit one of our sites and see my initial vision coming to life.

10.00am: Chairing project meetings is one of my many responsibilities. These are invaluable in the run up to a new development commencing on site, with representatives of all departments attending. We discuss all areas of the development process from the land purchase, though planning, technical and engineering, to sales, so that there is a synergy prior to commencement.

12.00pm: My job is very varied and obtaining planning permission is only the start of what can be quite a drawn-out affair due to the vast number of planning conditions imposed upon a consent. On some sites this can be in excess of 40-50 conditions, most requiring details to be prepared, submitted and approved before any works on site can commence. These can include dealing with a variety of ecological issues, implementing an archaeological dig, preparing detailed landscaping proposals and individual material schedules for each house. Being a bespoke developer, each site is completely different and therefore there is little standardisation in our approach.

1.00pm: It’s so easy to sit at my desk for hours so I try to take a break at lunchtime and walk into Tonbridge to grab a sandwich. I regularly walk the same circular route through town, along the river and back to the office, which I have done for many years – it clears my head for the afternoon.

2.30pm: At any one time I can be involved with 10-20 sites in various stages of design, planning or build. There are many queries raised during the course of a development particularly from purchaser’s solicitors concerning planning conditions, so it is vital to have a comprehensive paper trail to avoid any delays in the sale process.

4.00pm: My true passion is the design side of the job! I find designing an imaginative layout or a bespoke house type highly rewarding, whenever I can I will be at my drawing board or using CAD. I still find coming up with an initial site layout can only be done by hand, it allows far greater freedom in assessing options.

5.30pm: While the office closes at 5:30pm, I normally stay later. I find this time can be highly productive, avoiding the distractions of emails and phone calls. I have resolved many design issues, when I can give it 100% of my attention.

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