This month we’re taking the time to get to know our head of planning, Alex Bateman, a little bit better.
So Alex, when did you join the MC team?
Just over two years ago. I’ve had a pretty varied planning career so far: having started my career at McCarthy & Stone, where I promoted urban regeneration projects, I’ve also worked at Strutt & Parker where the focus was on greenfield land promotion. Two firms that couldn’t be more polar opposites!
Prior to joining Mohsin Cooper I was head of planning at SHW LLP, so I’ve been lucky to experience both client side and consultancy, as well as a full range of development projects.
What sorts of projects do you typically work on?
Where to start!
Our main focus is on developer-led schemes, but within that it could be housing schemes, Green Belt and greenfield land promotions, emerging policy representations and brownfield regeneration schemes.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the huge variation in my work. Not just geographically (our current projects reach as far as Cornwall and Yorkshire) but in scale too. One day I can be working at the microscale to remove a planning condition, and the next day I can be promoting a 4,000 homes scheme through the local plan process.
I’m the person that has to bridge the gap between the developer and my counterparts at the local planning authority. I can speak the language of the planners so I love how my understanding and appreciation of the planning system can provide such a lot of value to clients. My input shows that you can get the most out of a site when you work with the planning system.
What has been your most satisfying project to date?
It’s probably got to be our housing scheme in Angmering, West Sussex. Looking back it didn’t feel like it would be a winning one – we received a very negative pre-application response when we first started negotiations with the planning officers – but fast forward 18 months and we achieved a unanimous approval at planning committee. It reaffirmed to me the huge value of taking the time to build positive open communication and how that can remove objections and unlock sites.
What sets Mohsin Cooper apart?
Fundamentally, having both architectural and planning services in one business is more efficient. Top of the agenda for our clients is getting planning permission and delivering their scheme on the ground. When they work with us they save money and time by having both services in house.
I’ve worked with many different architects over my career but there’s something that stands out about our architects. They’re very commercially-minded. Yes, they’ve got the design acumen that is needed to make a scheme exceptional, but they’re also very aware that there’s more to it than making something look good. There’s a commercial side too: it needs to be a design that is deliverable financially too otherwise it’ll never be built out.
What do you like most about your team?
I really appreciate how the rest of the MC team has the same commercially-minded outlook as me. It means that when I’m negotiating a design matter with the planning officer I’m not going to also have to convince the design team to make changes – they just get it. And that makes it fun to work together. Being in the same office means there’s a real ease to working together on projects.
We’re all in it together.