Introducing Colm, lead man over at his self titled company Colm McKee Town and Country Planning Ltd - A true Irishman in his blood that found his home in sunny Brighton!
So Colm, I hear you’re a town planner - in essence it’s simple - you plan towns but we’re sure it’s more complex than that. Can you break it down in Layman's terms?
There are so many layers, it’s hard to break it down. ‘Land-Use Planning’ is a more accurate name for the profession, however its adopted name seems to be ‘Town Planning’. Development Management is the specific area i’m involved in, so when people are planning development in general, they need to apply to the council - I provide advice to the clients and developers. So i’m basically the helping hand through the minefield that needs to be navigated. I also provide consultancy to Local Authorities.
Were you always interested in the built environment, and did it start with lego towns when you were a child?
I have always being interested in Lego as a child… Lego Technics specifically! This was a sort of more complex form of lego (haha!) and I’m sure it helped spur my mind towards architectural engineering. I can’t really compare lego to architectural engineering seriously I might offend the profession - but it definitely helped. The engineering side became quite heavy on the number crunching so I moved more towards planning which has a more sociological, human side to it. People have very emotional connections to land - even if they don’t realise it.
Can you describe what your ideal town would look like?
I would probably say it would be something similar to Leuven, which is about 15 minutes outside of Brussels. The majority of the city is pedestrian based and bike friendly - a similar vibe to Danish culture - it’s confined within a circular ring road. The majority of the city was destroyed over the war and was meticulously rebuilt - it is also the home of Stella Artois. I would recommend visiting as it isn’t the same Stella we get, it is a lot fresher and ‘home-grown’ - it beats any of these trendy hipster beers... Just kidding!
Whereabouts in Ireland are you from, and what made you make the move to Brighton?
I’m from Belfast originally, and after I graduated there weren’t many jobs there, so I ended up moving to Scotland! This is where I first began my town planner profession with the council. My best mate had been telling me for years that Brighton was my spiritual home. Once I decided to move, I had a contract in Brighton within 72 hours and everything was tied up - this demonstrates the pace of development in the South-East.
So if you could explore anywhere else in the world in a similar profession, where would you be interested in travelling to?
I am soon to be travelling to Cuba, I previously wrote a paper on how in Havana they grow 90% of their vegetables within the city - so it’s very sustainable in that sense. If there is a piece of land this isn’t developed or is idle for a certain amount of time, the community are allowed to claim it and make it into an allotment. I wonder how these aspects could be integrated in the future planning system for the UK. Food for thought… we wouldn't be able to grow watermelons though.
On the side of your Town Planner profession, you are also a keen DJ - How did this come about?
I’ve always been into DJ’ing since it started to get really big in around 1995, the big beat era. Early Skint record label’s stuff with FatBoy Slim, Bentley Rhythm Ace and Midfield General were getting big and were my prime influences. I used to be more involved in the club promotion side in Belfast, however when I moved to Brighton I got back into my DJ’ing. I started playing in a variety of clubs and bars playing funk, soul and boss reggae. Because of the variety of record shops in Brighton with a great selection of vinyl, I often find myself spending a little too much each month in those shops! I tend to not use a laptop, instead I prefer to stick to Vinyl, it is just a personal thing and an excuse for more records.
When and why did you join PLATF9RM?
I joined earlier this year, considering a few options and was starting my own company so was hoping to make contacts and expand. PLATF9RM’s Location Manager Kerry gave me a tour and I was welcomed to the community with open arms - I was hooked from then on. I just knew it was the right place for me.
Do you think PLATF9RM is a fairly ‘quintessential’ Brightonian place of work?
Without doubt. I have made a variety of contacts which I would also call friends, whilst also receiving great advice from everything from marketing to use of social media, to people who have also recommended accountants. I have also gained clients through PLATF9RM, which are still an ongoing clientele, hoping to secure planning permission for a new property in the near future. I didn’t know places like this existed this time last year, it has turned out to be the perfect move for myself - the ideal place for a startup company!
For your last day on earth, what would be your ideal day?
I would begin by skyping my family, then asking my girlfriend if she would make me one of her amazing spinach omelettes - all by finished off by a tasty 4pm beer o’clock over at PLATF9RM.