Another of our long-standing executive directors will be clocking out of Pegasus for the last time later this month.

Guy Longley joined our East Midlands office in 2007 after over 20 years working in the public sector. We made time to catch up with him and ask for his reflections on his career.

You had a well-established public sector career when you joined Pegasus. What was it that led you to make the jump to the private sector?

I very much enjoyed my public sector service, first at Erewash Borough Council, then South Derbyshire District Council and for the most part, Charnwood Borough Council. The move to Pegasus was a bit of a step into the unknown, to be honest, but it was the firm’s family ethos that originally drew me in. I wanted a new challenge and to experience the variation you get when promoting sites of all shapes and sizes.

Moving into the private sector relatively late in my career, I know that I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else but Pegasus.

Tell us about some of your earliest career memories.

As a student planner on my year out (we’re talking 1982/83, here) I worked for the London Dockland Development Corporation (LDDC). It’s hard to believe it now, but on the commute to site the furthest east we could take the Tube was to Mile End Station. From there we had to be picked up in a minibus to actually get to the site. The whole area is completely unrecognisable now.

The LDDC is heralded across the industry as ambitious, transformative and effective. I think that was, in part, due to the planning committee being formed of nominated experts rather than elected Members. The LDDC drew criticism for lack of accountability because it took planning powers away from the three local authorities (Newham, Tower Hamlets and Southwark), but the committee knew what needed doing and, well, they got things done.

I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learnt from DCs – not that I’m advocating less democracy but, rather, more training for local committee members.

Any breakthrough moments in your career that spring to mind?

My time in the public sector was largely spent setting strategic visions and progressing local plans. Anyone whose work has touched on the plan-making process will know just how lengthy it is. During my time at Charnwood I was heavily involved in the local plan examination and given the protracted nature of local plan preparation and examination it was huge moment of celebration for the team when we got it over the line. No sooner had we got it adopted, though, and I was starting all over again, heading up the team progressing the new plan!

Funnily enough, I had a sense of déjà vu in my role at Pegasus when promoting a client’s site in the Melton Mowbray Plan: Melton’s planning inspector was the very same that had examined the Charnwood Plan some years earlier! Sitting on the other side of the table so to speak, we successfully secured an allocation a 1,500-home sustainable urban extension to the south of Melton Mowbray after our evidence on housing supply and the site selection process undertaken by the Council led the inspector to throw out the original submission draft plan.

How have things changed across the industry during your career?

The pace of change and technological advancements has been quite dramatic.

Starting out in local government back in 1986, we didn’t have computers. We had a typing pool (that’s a group of typists who would type up your hand-written letters, in case you are drawing a blank!) and we would cut out, stick back together and use acetate overlays to amend proposals maps!

Venturing into a smoke-filled Building Control office to check on the latest housing supply does seem a long time ago now.

Beyond the technological changes, though, the agenda driving decision making has shifted in a significant way too. While housing has always been a prickly topic, it’s markedly become much more contentious and political, ever since regional spatial strategies were scrapped. Regional housing targets gave local decision makers a sort of “get out clause” for approving unpopular – but needed – housing schemes. Without that tier in place, many local authorities are getting tied up in knots trying to meet housing targets while still appeasing the local electorate.

What was your favourite project from your time at Pegasus?

I’ve worked on some huge housing projects, promoting urban extensions and the like, but it’s the smaller schemes that stick with me because those are the ones that are really personal for the client. Getting consent for 100 dwellings across two sites for a landowner at Waltham on the Wolds sticks in the memory. Housebuilders are set up to know that not all planning applications get consent, but for smaller landowners such as farmers it’s all-or-nothing. When they go all-in, you naturally feel the pressure more keenly and so, when you get the win, you feel that more keenly too.

What’s next for you, Guy?

Well, although I am technically retiring, I think I’ll probably find it hard to stop! Planning is in my blood so I know I’ll maintain a keen interest though more as an interested observer, coupled with looking at opportunities to apply my planning and property expertise to overseas markets.

Any last words of advice?

I made the move into the private sector relatively late in my career and it was a bit of a “deep breath” moment. My advice is to never be scared of taking on new challenges – they can be life and career transforming.

And here’s a parting message from our CEO, Nicky Parsons.

“Our huge thanks go to Guy for everything that he has brought to the business in his 15 years at the company. His insight into the public sector significantly broadened our expertise and helped to cement Pegasus as leading experts in the planning sector across the Midlands.

“Guy embraced our family ethos and has worked diligently over the years to foster our values and bring people on, and for that we are very grateful.

“Our East Midlands office continues to grow in number and expertise, dovetailing with the expansion in our offices across the East and West Midlands, including our Birmingham office’s transportation and design teams.

“We wish you the very best for your future endeavours.”