The partner and head of planning at law firm Forsters on how she got started in property, her favourite destination, her top book and album recommendations and the celebrity she would most like to meet.

Victoria Du Croz

Victoria Du Croz

How did you join the property industry?

I was able to do a few law modules while studying English literature at Durham University and found the subject fascinating. I got accepted on to a vacation scheme at Lovell White Durrant (now Hogan Lovells), at the end of which I was offered a training contract. After qualifying, I could not decide between international banking or planning, but I am so relieved I chose the latter and have not looked back.

What does your job entail?

I am head of planning at Forsters, working closely with my commercial and rural estates colleagues to advise on all aspects of planning law. We advise major developers, institutional investors, housebuilders, high-net-worth individuals, strategic land promoters, landowners, local authorities, film studios, hotel operators – basically anyone who needs planning law advice.

What do you like most about the property industry?

I love that there is a physical building at the end of it. I am incredibly proud of the schemes I have worked on – my family says that from the way I talk about the finished buildings, you would think I had personally built them.

And what do you dislike most about it?

When politicians put short-term goals over addressing what their local area needs or, in the case of central government, what the development industry and country really need. We live on a comparatively small island and each area of developable land will often have many potential land uses that could be used to meet a local, regional or national need. There are no easy answers when it comes to planning and we are not going to please everyone. We need politicians who are willing to make difficult decisions that may be unpopular in the short term, but which will ultimately be beneficial in the long term.

What would you change about the property industry?

I would make additional resources available to councils to enable them to spend Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy contributions promptly. The statistics showing how much money some authorities are sitting on are appalling. Local residents just see more and more housing being built without any improvements to already creaking local services, so it is no wonder they object to planning applications. Being able to demonstrate that the impacts of the proposed development will be properly and promptly mitigated would alleviate these concerns.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

I have been extremely lucky in not having faced any significant barriers or challenges in my career. I was fortunate to work for very supportive partners at Hogan Lovells: Michael Gallimore and Claire Dutch. Certainly, when I started there were fewer women, but it is much more evenly split now. Forsters is refreshing as we have an almost even split of male and female partners and we have women in our top two management roles: Emily Exton and Natasha Rees.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My team at Forsters. They are hard-working, fun, passionate people who love planning and cinnamon swirls as much as I do.

What do you value in people?

A willingness to learn and an ability to listen. As lawyers we are used to talking, but listening is so important, too.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?

Start building your network straight away. The people you connect with at the start of your career will end up being the ones to appoint law firms and consultants in the future.

Top recommendations

Something to read:

I love reading, so it is a nightmare to try and narrow it down to a single book. The one book I return to time and again is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It is beautifully written with a ‘consciously naive’ narrator, Cassandra, and is the perfect calming antidote to busy days. 

Something to listen to:

Mark Ronson’s album ‘Version’ came out the year I got married and we went to see him perform it live at the Camden Roundhouse. Uptown Funk is guaranteed to get me on the dance floor and is currently one of my daughter’s favourite songs.

Favourite celebrity:

I would love to have a gin and tonic (or three) with Olivia Colman. She is an incredible, versatile actor who doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously. I think she would have some great stories to tell and I would happily buy her gin and then sit listening to her.

Top travel destination:

We went to Japan about 10 years ago for two weeks, but I could easily have spent two months there. I loved everything about it: the high-energy cities, the serene countryside, the formal gardens, the temples, the food, the ryokans and the people. It seemed to be a country at the cutting edge of technology and other advancements and yet with such an important traditional culture and heritage – seeing the tension between the two as they competed for space was fascinating.