Alessandra Large

What attracted you to study at the University of Sheffield?

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield, so already knew and, of course, loved the city. There is so much to do in Sheffield and a never-ending list of exciting, independent businesses and social enterprises to discover and beautiful hills to climb. Not to forget the best pies in the world and extremely friendly people. The fact that it is the top RTPI accredited School in the UK is, of course, an added bonus.

What attracted you to your chosen course?

I was primarily interested in International Development and wanted to understand it more from a theoretical and historical perspective. To be honest, I didn’t really discover the world of planning until I found the this course. That was the moment that I became aware of ‘planning’. The fact that the course was accredited by the RTPI also attracted me as it lends it a semi-vocational aspect, thus greatly enhancing employability upon completion. Furthermore, ‘International Development’ is a huge, almost never-ending subject and the specifically socio-political and spatial focus that ‘planning’ attaches to it is not only very satisfying but also makes the topic feel less abstract, particularly theory-wise.

The field trip to Istanbul seemed like a great opportunity and it did not fail to disappoint. It was very well organised and gave amazing, inaccessible (to the average tourist) insight into a city and country that is hugely threatened by social, spatial, political and environmental factors. I found the community engagement and collaboration with Istanbul Technical University particularly useful and inspirational.

Tell us a bit about your current job

I am currently working as a Graduate Planner for Savills in Reading and working towards completing my APC, which I hope to complete in two years. The support provided and emphasis on becoming chartered in 2-3 years, as opposed to 3-5, in large, private companies was particularly attractive for me. The benefits of being located in a regional office are that you get more responsibility and faster, but also more support and more of an opportunity to work with and learn directly from your seniors.

My day to day work consists primarily of researching and writing planning appraisals for all sorts of potential developments, from medium sized residential schemes to poultry processing factories (which is delightful as a veggie). I am also drafting, submitting and monitoring planning applications for small proposals such as bird hides and operational buildings on sewage treatment works. It doesn’t sound particularly glamorous and is not the city centre regeneration that many dream of, but, it is weirdly interesting due to the policy constraints that tend to thwart (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse) this type of development.  Generally, at this level, the job is based on research, writing and analytical skills. However, personal and communication skills are also developed as networking and client relations are very important.

What are your ambitions in the future?

In the immediate future, I am focusing on completing my APC, which goes hand-in-hand with working on a variety of different projects. I am looking forward to progressing and learning about the complexities of working on larger projects whilst gaining experience in working with developers and local government.