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News & opinion

2 APR 2019

Fit for the Premier League

As Tottenham Hotspur open their new 61,000 stadium, we reflect on when Modus caught up with Richard Serra MRICS in 2016. As Head of Planning at the Premier League outfit, Richard was tasked with the delivery of one of the biggest stadiums in the United Kingdom.

First steps

I was always interested in making things – right back to being a Lego enthusiast as a boy. So I took the perfect course, building management, at Northumbria University. Back in 1989, it was quite groundbreaking, as it was designed to train in "both languages" of design and construction. I graduated in 1993 in the depths of recession, and was lucky enough to get a job at Tolent Construction. It was a great grounding, helping me get to grips with the building process.

Career break

Working on building sites wasn't quite for me, so I found a job as a planning technician with Tynedale District Council. However, I was keen to become more professionally qualified, which wasn't possible with that local authority, so in 1997 I joined NAI Fuller Peiser in Sheffield, who eventually became part of BNP Paribas. While there, I took a diploma in surveying at the College of Estate Management.

Richard Serra MRICS

You have to have an appreciation of the mechanics of property development to provide rounded [planning] advice.

Richard Serra MRICS
Head of Planning, Tottenham Hotspur FC

New Tottenham Stadium2-RH
Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium, 23 March 2019

Like many, I was drawn to London, and joined Healey & Baker in 2000 where I became an RICS member. Later, I moved to GVA Grimley and spent five years accruing enough experience to also gain membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute in 2006. Dual qualification is really important to me. I don't think you can really advise on town planning in isolation. You have to have more than a basic appreciation of the mechanics of property development to provide more rounded advice.

Building the future

I moved back north to Leeds in 2006, taking up a directorship at Hepher Dixon, who later merged with Savills. Tottenham Hotspur FC was one of the firm's clients, so as early as 2007 I've been advising the club on planning.

After a spell at rapidly growing practice Quod, Spurs' chairman asked me to oversee their planning affairs, including the delivery of the club's new 61,000-seat stadium. It's been a full-time job steering the proposals through, as it's involved liaising with the local authority and community on the wider regeneration around the stadium.

I'm at the stadium three days a week, but I have great flexibility in being able to work from home in Leeds. I'm lucky to be involved in such an exciting project and, personally and professionally, I'm so excited to be helping deliver an amazing new stadium for Spurs.

Richard's journey

1989 Studies for degree in building management at Northumbria University
1993 Graduates and lands a job as a site surveyor at Tolent Construction
1995 Switches profession and joins Tynedale District Council as a planning technician
2000 Becomes chartered while at Healey & Baker in London
2001 Joins GVA Grimley as an associate
2006 Obtains RTPI membership
2015 Leaves Quod to become head of planning at Tottenham Hotspur FC