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30 Under 30 Update: Charlotte Williams

One year into her role with AECOM, Charlotte tells us about the switch towards working on large infrastructure projects and earning her Chartership

“It is challenging when undertaking assessment work; for example, larger projects which have a big focus on stakeholder engagement, so it is extremely useful to understand local opinions which can help to inform the design. It is important to remember that your role is to provide an impartial assessment of the scheme.”

Charlotte’s night viewpoints

Fortunately for Charlotte, these DCOs make up a large part of her role at construction engineering company AECOM, which she moved to Cambridge to join last year. “AECOM is a great company to work for, and there are many sectors that we undertake work within.”

Since starting at the company, Charlotte has been working on two large development consent order applications for public bodies, which is a considerable change from the work she was undertaking at Pegasus Group. There, she worked mostly in the residential sector.

“The DCO process was established by the Planning Act 2008 to streamline the complex application process for nationally significant infrastructure projects. So, it’s different from the typical town and country planning application route and interesting. I’m enjoying being part of a large company with multi-disciplinary teams. That’s something great about AECOM as teams can work together to collaborate on projects.”

From Charlotte’s passion, you’d be forgiven for thinking she’d been pursuing landscape architecture for years, but when she left school, Charlotte undertook an undergraduate degree in Physical Geography at the University of Exeter. According to Charlotte, it’s not such an unusual jump. “A lot of my colleagues in landscape have also done geography, so it seems to be quite a typical route into the profession.”

Charlotte Williams

She’d considered volcanology for a while but did some work experience for landscape architecture firm Influence during the summer holidays, as well as medium and large-scale companies Pegasus Group and Atkins. Pegasus Group had offered her a job before she’d even graduated, and so she worked there whilst embarking on her Masters in Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University.

Since becoming a qualified landscape architect, Charlotte has thrown herself into the profession, even embarking on a project outside of her day-to-day work.

“I’m leading a project to review publicly available landscape character assessment information to provide a single resource that will be of benefit to many environmental professionals, not just landscape architects. I launched the project through a webinar as part of the Landscape Institute’s Spatial Data Group back in 2020 and it prompted a lot of interest from volunteers. We have a volunteer team of about 30 people at the moment, from different practices and also public bodies, including Natural England.”

An initial compilation was out for consultation until the end of June. “I have been compiling the great feedback that we had from the consultation, and we are currently working through the next steps for the project. I hope to organise a full volunteer team meeting in the not-too-distant future. We will then publish the landscape character assessment database following the inclusion of the consultation feedback and see where we can take the project from there!”

Having passed her chartership exam earlier in the year – “a big milestone in my career” – Charlotte is able to focus further on the project, continuing to progress it and work with “a brilliant team who are all really passionate about the project.” She is also planning to work more on the policy side of landscape architecture going forward. “I’ve not touched on that too much; I’ve focused on the assessment side, so it will be interesting to learn new skills and understanding as a professional.”

AECOM is undoubtedly in a fortunate position, boasting a chartered landscape architect who enjoys planning and is eager to explore policy – but then so is the landscape industry, benefitting from someone who is determined to have a wider impact

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