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Chris Isles
Chris Isles

University of Queensland regional and town planning graduate Chris Isles was recently announced as both the Queensland and Australian Planner of the Year.

 The national announcement was made during the May 2015 Planning Institute of Australia congress.

The accolades recognise his demonstrated leadership in the field, his enthusiasm and passion for planning, and the scale of his contribution to the planning industry as a whole.

“Being named Australian Planner of the Year is a wonderful acknowledgement,” he said.

“It is humbling that my determination to not accept things as ‘that is the way it has always been done’ has been recognised.

“My journey has required perseverance and determination to keep pushing to make a difference.

“My interest in the wider development industry and also my resolve to extend planning into spaces and places that it has perhaps not been before, has really helped me to get where I am today.”

Chris, who graduated from The University of Queensland in 1998, is a Director and the National Planning Leader of Place Design Group, a large planning and design consultancy with five offices within Australia and a further four offices in China.

With responsibilities for overseeing the Town Planning sector of the business, he is also busy as the Queensland Vice-President of the Urban Development Institute of Australia.

Chris said his UQ program provided him with a broad set of skills and exposure across a range of topics, issues and professions.

“It is only now that I understand a good planner knows a lot about a little, and a little about a lot,” he said.

“I think the UQ program helped start this, by giving us exposure to economics, law, engineering and environmental topics.

“There is no doubt for me the highlight was being given a student prize in 3rd year, which was the opportunity to undertake a three month paid internship with a local government over the summer break. 

“It was a great opportunity to get exposure to the profession.”

Another valuable aspect of the program was the friendships and connections he formed with his classmates. 

“These people are still friends and colleagues to this day and are an importantly part of my professional network,” he said.

Chris’s day-to-day job has a variety of hands-on practical planning work, and significant amounts of business development, presenting and business operations. 

“My National Planner role sees me lead a team of 20+ planners, in a number of locations, so I travel quite a bit on projects, which is always interesting to see Australia and how planning differs across the country,” he said.

“For me the great enjoyment comes from seeing projects that I have led or worked on come to life. 

“There is nothing better than driving around Brisbane and being able to point at the projects that you gained approval for, or seeing projects being built where you drafted the planning document that has facilitated that growth.

“I am passionate about development, so the outcomes that planners facilitate is what I think is great about our profession.”

He plans to remain at Place Design Group and to continue to lead the company’s growing planning team. 

“I remain focused on driving the adoption of commercial principles into planning, including scheme testing, town centre revitalisation and reviewing how economic development strategies are prepared,” he said.

He is also looking at improving the outcomes that planning can create, and concentrating on the opportunity planning needed to lead cities into the future, rather than just operating as a regulatory process.

His advice for people considering planning as a career, or wishing to further their careers in planning, is to “get involved”. 

“It is a great profession and will be all the better for energetic people that want to make a difference to our cities and how we are going to live in the future,” Chris said. 

“We are moving into a new technological era and I think planning has many opportunities to adopt and apply new technologies to make our cities smarter. 

“The next generation of planners were probably born with computers in their hands, so I think they will be the generation of planners that will perhaps have the single biggest step change in how we live since the advent of the motor car. 

“So we need more planners that are interested in cross-disciplinary thinking in planning.”

Last updated: Jun 24, 2015