Gravis interview miniseries: Ed Barrett

4 October 2023

In September, we celebrated the milestone of 5 years since opening our Gravis Planning Dublin office, marking two decades in business, as we continue to also expand our work into Great Britain with new offices in London and Edinburgh. In the first interview of our mini-series, in which colleagues reflect on their experiences with Gravis Planning and our continued growth, Ed Barrett, Director of Planning Consultancy in our Dublin office, shared his thoughts.

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Firstly, Ed – tell us a bit about yourself.

Outside of the office I really enjoy travel and sport. I’m a big rugby fan, so I am getting as much of the Word Cup in as I can at the moment (I’d happily watch every game if I could!). It goes with the territory of being a planner I suppose, but I love travelling to different cities. I try to combine the two – rugby and travel – whenever I can, and there are a few decent trips on the horizon based on the fixture list this year.

How did you get started in planning, and what attracted you to Gravis?

Geography was my favourite subject in school and, while studying Business and Politics for my undergrad, I got to do an elective course in City and Regional Planning, which opened my eyes to the possibility of doing it as a career. I went travelling for a couple of years after college, and living in a few different cities during that time planted the seed further. Like a lot of people of my generation though, the planning mess that was Celtic Tiger Ireland was probably the main motivator – surely we could do better?!

I joined Gravis after working in London for just under 5 years. London was great, but moving home had been on my mind for a while, and the opportunity to move back with an ambitious company and help to build up a new office was really exciting.

How would you say our presence in the Irish market has grown since we established our Dublin office, five years ago this month?

It has grown steadily and progressively year on year – which has been hard work, but very satisfying. We have now established a strong position in some key sectors, and our ability to work seamlessly across different jurisdictions has been a real attraction for clients. Covid was a challenging period, but we came out of it stronger and we have been able to build a great team. I’m very optimistic for the next five years!

What changes have you seen in the world of Irish planning since then, and what do you predict will be the major issues of the next half-decade?

There have been some positive changes over the last 5 years. The current policy structure was still emerging five years ago and is now bedded in, and I think the system is in a decent place in that sense. Of course, we have a new Planning Act on the way now too. Legislative reform and consolidation is certainly welcome but, as ever, the devil will be in the detail. The implementation of the new Act will certainly be a dominant issue over the coming years. Alongside that, it goes without saying that resourcing will continue to be a major challenge – be it in the public, private or semi-state sectors. I really think we need to work together as a profession to create a more efficient, streamlined and, perhaps above all, collaborative planning system and culture. The recent – long overdue – introduction of online applications has been a positive change and we need to continue the embrace of technology to enhance the planning system for everyone.

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