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1. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

I am Amon Yiu, a Hongkonger who moved from Hong Kong to London three years ago. I am now working as a graduate planner at Carter Jonas, taking part in a variety of development projects from strategic land promotion, and large-scale mixed-use development to leisure planning.


2. How does the planning system/practices in the UK differ from Hong Kong? Any lessons learnt for the UK? 

Unlike the discretionary system in the UK, the zonal system in Hong Kong allocates specific types of development to predefined zones. While the zonal system might bring clarity and predictability of development outcomes, it also allows less flexibility and room for negotiations and as a result, the role of planners tends to be more administrative. However, I do admire the discretionary nature of the UK system, which offers planners greater flexibility to play a more significant role in balancing various material considerations when evaluating development proposals.


3. How does your East Asian heritage influence your understanding/approach/practice in planning?

My East Asian heritage influences my approach to urban development, particularly in the context of urban densification. East Asian cities often have a long history of high-rise development, mixed land use and vertical living, which have emerged as key planning topics in recent years as a way to achieve sustainable development and address housing challenges. My cultural background makes me more sensitive to the benefits and, of course, the limits of this design approach that need to be addressed during the planning process. 


4.  Can you name one of your favourite places/developments in the UK that reflects East Asian heritage? And why? 

Brick Lane is one of my favourite places in the UK which I think reflects East Asian heritage. Of course, this is the heartland of the UK’s Bangladeshi community. But at the same time, it represents the very elements of East Asian cityscape - nightlife, indie shops, food/craft markets and randomness of spatial uses. There is a sense of cultural diversity and urban vibrancy that you can barely feel in high street chains.


5. Why do you think it is beneficial for the planning profession to embrace East Asian heritage and planners with East Asian heritage?

Planners with East Asian heritage can bring a deeper understanding and sensitivity to the cultural nuances and preferences of East Asian communities, which can lead to a more effective and culturally appropriate approach for this expanding demographic and improve community engagement.


Embracing diversity can create a more inclusive workplace environment which would encourage underrepresented groups to pursue careers in planning.

For planners working in the private sector, the knowledge of East Asian perspectives in the working team is also crucial for international collaborations.


6. What challenges did you encounter to secure your current/previous planning roles? How did you overcome them?

One of the challenges that I had early in my career was a lack of knowledge base when working on large-scale projects, which often involve a variety of technical disciplines, ranging from nutrient neutrality, biodiversity, transport, and heritage to carbon reduction. All of these could be key planning constraints that I need to address when advising clients, reviewing consultant's reports and preparing submission documents. In order to overcome this, I have to stay current on the latest trends, policies, and best practices in various disciplines through attending CPDs, studying case studies and relevant appeal cases, and participating in discussions with other BAME Network members. This is a rewarding process that really helps me to develop the required skills.

7. What advice would you give to prospective and current planners from East Asian backgrounds?

Your cultural background is always a source of strength for you. The ability to communicate bi- or trilingually and to have cultural awareness can significantly broaden your opportunities and enable effective communication with your co-workers, local communities, and business partners. Equally, keep an open mind to new ideas and challenges - Adaptability and a willingness to learn will help you stay relevant and effective in your planning profession.


Celebrating East and South East Asian Heritage Month

Amon Yiu

RTPI Licentiate

Graduate Planner

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