Now we are in August 2019, my first year at the Banks Group comes to an end – and with that only six weeks until I am back to lectures and writing essays at university again.
It was during my third year at Newcastle University where I first heard about The Banks Group thanks to the Group taking part in an open seminar representing the role of developers within the development industry.
Having worked over summer holidays for planning consultants and estate management companies over the last few years these seminars showed off a different role within the development industry and an opportunity to work across three diverse business areas at The Banks Group.
The opportunities to work on such a range of projects and from such a different perspective is what first appealed to me the most about working at the Banks Group. Whilst a lot of my course mates decided to leave the North East to work in local authorities and consultancies across the country I was keen to be able stay and work in the North East which had been my home for the last three years.
Anyway 12 months on from when I first arrived at Meadowfield which has felt more like 12 days! I have learnt a great deal from each of the different business areas (Mining, Renewables and Property) and have gained an invaluable insight from the different teams within the group, all of which I will be able to take as great experience back to university for my final year of study in September.
Based mainly within Banks Property during my year in industry and working closely with both planning and land teams on ongoing projects and identifying and assessing potential new development sites I have been able to work on a range of schemes throughout Scotland, the North East and Yorkshire.
New territory for a man from Kent!
Working on mixed-use developments including on the Banks Group’s flagship property development; Mount Oswald I have been able to gain invaluable experience as a planner. This has involved working on a range of small planning applications to help deliver elements of the scheme’s 291 residential dwellings, accommodation for up to 1,000 students along with the provision of office and retail space and green open space. Working as a planner on Mount Oswald as an ongoing site included gaining approval for Non-Material Amendments to existing planning permissions, works related to protected trees, the delivery of Public Rights of Ways and the discharge of specific conditions. From working with a range of colleagues from different parts of the business I have also gained a useful insight into technical specialisms including highways and drainage.
Based within Banks Property I have also been fortunate to be able to attend a number of local planning committees, local plan examinations and public inquiries as a part of the appeal process for other local developers. These opportunities were a great way to broaden my understanding of the planning system and to gain a deeper understanding of the wider development landscape in the North East and Yorkshire.
Since last July a large portion of my time has also been spent researching and analysing potential property sites whilst also helping to find new sites for development with a particular focus on expanding the group’s property projects in Yorkshire. Site finding in God’s Own Country along with assisting on other ongoing developments from a purely planning role has positioned me in great stead in working towards gaining my chartered status from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) with the support of The Banks Group.
Over the last year I have also gained an appreciation for the importance of engaging with local communities and ensuring that the viewpoints of locals are always fully considered. I have seen first-hand how early engagement through public exhibitions for Kingston Village on the edge of Newcastle have been able to maintain local community support through clear communication, putting a “development with care” approach into action. From working on Kingston Village which will provide 900 new homes and a two-form primary school when complete I have also gained an increased awareness of the essential need for sustainable new developments such as Kingston Village to help relieve existing housing shortages and to overcome housing crises.
Equally working on such schemes and working within such a diverse business group I was introduced to a range of factors that have contributed to the UK’s housing crisis which inspired my first blog “UK Housebuilding hits a brick wall”. (Please see: https://www.banksgroup.co.uk/2019/05/08/banks-blog-uk-housebuilding-hits-a-brick-wall-by-will-allman-planning-placement-student-banks-property/)
From my previous blog based around brick shortages and the need for fireclay to support UK housebuilding and brickmaking I became even more aware of the national importance of coal mining which is essential to support the extraction of fireclay as a by-product.
Working at the Banks Group and through site visits to the Shotton surface mine my perception of surface coal mining has completely changed in the same way that my colleague George Oldroyd’s has (see George’s first blog: ““Changing perceptions of surface coal mining in the UK” by George Oldroyd, Banks Mining” at https://www.banksgroup.co.uk/2019/02/11/blog-changing-perceptions-of-surface-coal-mining-in-the-uk/). I have learnt how coal and fireclay remain vital minerals for many industrial uses from food production to cement and steel production and of course for brick manufacture.
With coal providing a bridge to a lower carbon economy there is a rising need for renewable energy including wind and solar power to the UK’s energy mix. This was something I gained a greater appreciation of during my time at the Banks Group. Working on planning applications relating to the infrastructure of both Lethans and Kype Muir Extension Wind Farms I gained great experience working in the Scottish planning system and on renewable projects which will provide future sustainable electricity supplies.
I’ve been grateful for all the opportunities I have had over the last year to work on such a range of projects across Scotland and the North of England and to be able to remain in the north east with such a close-knit business and major regional employer.
Enjoying my year in industry as much as I have is testament to the work and time that the Banks Group invest in their employees through regular training and development schemes such as our Graduate Development Programme and by continuing to employ a number of trainees, apprentices and placement students across all business areas. For all these reasons and having learnt so much this year I am looking forward to staying on in a similar part-time role during my final year at university!