Pamela Chesterman, planning and environment partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, on how she got started in the property industry, her top film and song recommendations and the most ridiculous fact she knows
How did you join the property industry?
I started at a local authority and became quickly interested in the grey area of planning – that is to say ‘grey’ in terms of 100% arguable and very rarely 100% definite. Plenty of scope for a keen solicitor to argue her case on a daily basis.
What does your job entail?
Day to day, I advise a range of clients: SMEs, individual/corporate landowners, objectors, supporters, householders, housebuilders, commercial business owners/operators and local authorities – in fact, anyone with a planning, environmental or highways legal query.
Recently, there has been a rise in enforcement cases. Having built a strong reputation in that niche practice for a local authority, I really enjoy helping on either side – those wishing to challenge notices and also those enforcing perceived breaches/offences.
What do you like most about the property industry?
Planning is emotive. Most think it is boring, but it is reliant on people, which means it has ample scope to give rise to emotional responses. It sets an interesting and challenging landscape too exciting not to be fully immersed in.
And what do you dislike most about it?
The ability for people to engage is open to abuse and, sometimes, people without a genuine interest utilise the system to try to delay and thwart the ‘good’ intentions of others to develop their land. The reliance on people exercising their roles in public authority decision-making means it is prone to human error, which can be frustrating for solicitors, even though it is a rife area of instruction.
What would you change about the property industry?
There have been plenty of headlines and press discussion about how the planning system is ‘broken’. To date, there is little or no detail to really explain how the proposed changes will be implemented and – possibly more importantly – measured in terms of effectiveness.
Rather than repeatedly suggesting wholescale ‘radical reform’, it would be nice to have a degree of acceptance of what does work, while these doom-mongers continue to belittle the permissions and grants that are issued every day under the ‘broken system’. Change might be needed, but for successful change, an outcome must be determined.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
What are you most proud of in your career?
Loyal clients and connections whom I have seen grow alongside my career. We are all still helping each other 20 years on.
What do you value in people?
Honesty and self-belief. You can learn a lot more than you give yourself credit for. If you are willing to accept what you can do and focus on what you want to do, then have the belief in yourself that you can do it.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Ask for help, advice and support. There is never a stupid question, nor is there a good or bad time to ask a question.
Something to watch:
The movie Legally Blonde is a vivid illustration of why you should never rely on first impressions. Lawyers come in all shapes and sizes and have a wide range of extracurricular interests. It is good to be reminded never to judge a book by its cover.
Something to listen to:
TLC’s album CrazySexyCool reminds me of university and – I probably have to admit now – my youth. They were a girl group who were ahead of their time, promoting female empowerment and self-belief. I wish I had seen them live.
If I could have a superpower:
I already have a superpower: sleeping. I can sleep anywhere if I am tired. I genuinely think it contributes to my resilience, for which I am very grateful.
The most ridiculous fact I know:
The most ridiculous fact I know is that camels have three eyelids. I’d love to have three eyelids. It would save a lot of time and money buying/using contact lenses and sunglasses.