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Sara Dilmamode is a Director at Plan In. She was one of the founding steering group members between 2020 and 2022 and made significant contributions to the early establishment of the Network. She has been an active member of the Mentoring and Leadership sub-committee and has generously offered mentoring support to many members at different stages of their careers.

1. What do you do in your current job role?

I am Director of Plan In which is a niche consultancy focused on capacity building, research and improvement projects in the planning sector.

2. Can you outline your career journey?

I got a master's level qualification in planning after a first degree in geography. My first job was at a national property surveying firm. I worked mainly on assisting with large-scale university planning applications and large housing schemes outside of London. I had a brilliant manager who taught me things I still draw on today. I eventually realised that I wanted to work on a city/ town scale which led me to local government.  I worked in strategic development, planning policy and infrastructure rising to team manager.

After more than 10 years in Local Government, I founded a niche planning consultancy practice and now work on service improvement, research and capacity-building projects. One example of the type of project I work on is delivering PAS Local Plan Project Management support which I do as part of a project team with DAC Planning and others. I also occasionally work in interim programme/ project management roles to ensure I stay in touch with the reality of current practice issues. In these roles, I tend to specialise in local plan development and strategic site development. This mix of work gives me hands-on experience in delivery and practice innovation.   

3. Can you share one of your favourite projects in your career and tell us why? 

While it didn't necessarily feel like it at the time, a complex local plan project I worked on in Yorkshire recently is definitely one of my all time favourites. The project was challenging for various reasons, but I really enjoyed working through problems and negotiating with developers and statutory consultees to find solutions. It's really satisfying being able to play a role in enabling development and in bringing that development more into line with the aspirations of communities living in the area. During this project, I also had the immense privilege of working with some of the best legal brains in the country and got to collaborate with some fantastic planners. I learnt a lot in a short time!

4. How does the BAME Planners Network benefit you? 

Being able to connect with Network colleagues who are further along their professional journey and who have had similar experiences and challenges has been really helpful to me on a personal level. Through my involvement in the mentoring and leadership committee, I have also had a chance to support others on their career journeys. It’s also been great to celebrate the successes of my Network colleagues whether they are scooping planning awards, publishing innovative research or getting that promotion.

5. What are your aspirations for the Network?

The BAME Planners Network is really friendly and I have made new friends through it! The Network also walks the walk on inclusivity and this means that whatever your background, if you share the objectives you are very welcome to join us. Despite being a relatively new network, it has had a positive impact on the sector and individuals. There have been events, mentoring lounge, direct engagement on recruitment and procurement and even a documentary! There is even more to come to in 2023. I strongly believe that the Network, continuing to work with partners across the sector, can meaningfully contribute to achieving a more inclusive and diverse profession. 

6. Can you share your thoughts on the future of Planning?


We need to change the way we do some aspects of planning and how we communicate about planning. I think data science and digital innovation has a role for sure and this is of course reflected in reforms. But without that change to the underpinning processes and approaches, new platforms risk reinforcing sub-optimal existing practices.  Cultural changes are needed to deliver better outcomes for people and the environment - whether it's increasing affordable housing or tackling climate change. Drawing on a larger pool of diverse talent is needed to help us all to be more creative about how we work in planning across the public and private sectors.

Sara Dilmamode

Meet the Members Series

Sara Dilmamode



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