Jim Tarzey, one of our founding Executive Directors, will be hanging up his Pegasus boots at the end of the month, after 20 years at the helm.

We asked him to reflect on his planning career and offer us any parting words of wisdom.

Tell us briefly about your background – how did you end up establishing Pegasus Group in 2003?

As a fresh-faced planning grad in 1989 I joined Chapman Warren, one of the country’s two main independents planning consultancies serving the housebuilding industry at the time. Based initially near Swindon I later set up an office in my hometown of Bristol.

Then, after three years at RPS (who acquired Chapman Warren), I helped set up Pegasus in 2003 with eight others, all of whom heralded from early days at Chapman Warren. There were less than 20 of us initially, operating from Cirencester, Birmingham and Cambridge, but we quickly established offices in Bristol and East Midlands. Today we’re over 400 strong in 14 offices spread across the country.

How has Pegasus changed in that time?

We’re a bigger operation, both geographically and professionally. We’ve a much larger presence in the North and South-East and we’ve diversified our services, from originally offering design, environment and planning to now providing a full package of seven services for our clients, including heritage, economics and transportation.

This geographical and professional diversification has grown our reputation such that many younger people in the profession now strive to join us, something I’m immensely proud of. We’ve gone from being one of many, to being one of the ‘go-to’ consultancies that people want on their CV.

Perhaps that’s in part due to the ways we haven’t changed: we’ve remained independent and we enable our staff to do the job in a way that suits them with minimal intervention from processes and ‘red tape’. There’s no elitism amongst the directors: we remain accessible and approachable to all of our staff. What we’ve done steadily is grow a strong brand that both clients and staff are attracted to.

Can you recall a key breakthrough moment in your career?

While at Chapman Warren, an opportunity presented itself that led to a change in direction for my career.

Out of the blue we were approached by Bass Taverns Ltd to promote a new pub within a strategic urban extension on the edge of Swindon. I’m talking about 1994, and soon I was working for an ever-expanding acquisition team of around 30 surveyors, based in Bishopsgate, London. That small, single application ultimately led me into the property world of food and drink, working for and alongside other clients such as Starbucks, Dominoes, Cote and The Ivy to name but a few. This introduction to the hospitality sector enabled Pegasus to diversify their client case beyond housebuilding, and now helps form a significant tranche of our professional work.

Tell us about some highlights from your time at Pegasus.

The highlight is setting it up and helping to run it, but mostly watching it grow with the help of some great people who joined the company and have introduced new ideas and impetus in all of our offices.

One of my most memorable projects was in Weston-Super-Mare when we led on the planning for a new pier after the iconic structure burned down in 2008. With the wider project team, we managed to secure permission for and facilitate the rebuilding of a new pier within two years. It was some of the fastest planning applications, supported by an Environmental Impact Assessment, that I’ve ever seen, and which would put your average application to shame these days. I’m afraid it now all takes too long!

More recently, and since I set up the London office eight years ago, I’ve worked with some great clients across the capital. Given my love of football (not that I often get to watch my team at Wembley) I took great pleasure in watching the speed at which our London team supported client Sheen Lane Developments on the delivery of 1 Olympic Way. It’s a landmark residential development of 346 apartments right by the iconic Wembley Arch, combining conversion, rooftop extension and new build. Those folk move quickly believe me!

How have things changed across the industry in your time at Pegasus?

One key change has been the growing focus on community engagement, and the need to embrace it as opposed to fighting it. Where it once used to be considered by some as, dare I say it, tokenistic, now there’s a genuine importance on getting it right. If you get the engagement right, if you deliver effective opportunities for genuine engagement, you make the whole planning process smoother. Notice I said smoother; it’s not always smooth!

Another important change is how the industry, including Pegasus, has embraced flexible working practices. For our part, we’re more people-focused than we’ve ever been, and rightly so. Our staff are our most important asset and we them to do their job in the way that suits them, whether it’s the traditional ‘9 to 5’ day in the office, or often in a more flexible way.

What’s next for you, Jim?

I’ll be investing more time in my newest venture; a small housebuilding development company focused on Hampshire and the Solent. The joy for me is being able to see a project from start to finish, getting involved in land acquisition and conveyancing, right through the construction process to the internal layouts and interior design. I still get to use my planning brain and judgment, but rest assured I’ll be calling on Pegasus when I need them to see an application through.

Any last words of advice?

Keep people your top priority. Whether it’s communities, staff or clients. Pegasus is successful because it’s kept focused on how business and project decisions will impact on people.

And, in your career you’ll encounter luck and opportunity. I was lucky I met the right people at an early stage in my career. You’ve also got to seize opportunities when they come your way. Don’t let them pass by. I didn’t when I set up Pegasus; I was asked, and I jumped at the opportunity. I worried about how I was going to finance it later.

And here’s a parting message from our CEO, Nicky Parsons, to our ‘Man of the People’…

We’re grateful to Jim for his years of service, his wisdom and, of course, for his wry sense of humour.

Under Jim’s guidance, and over many years, we’ve made sure our succession planning has gone well: we’ve worked hard to become an employer of choice and that’s allowed us to bring in many great people into the business, each of whom bring new ideas and energy.

Jim leaves our London office in a strong place, with a breadth of projects to keep us on our toes, headed up by Barry Cansfield and Henry Courtier. We send him off with all our best wishes for the future and a polite request that he comes and visits us soon!