Neil Harris

Studied: 
BSc City and Regional Planning (1994); Diploma in Town Planning (1996); PhD research (1999)
Current Job: 
Lecturer in the School of Planning and Geography, Cardiff University

Why did you choose Cardiff University as a place to study?

I had attended a lecture by my now colleague Professor Cliff Guy whilst I was a sixth form geography student - it was in a series for the Geographical Association on changes in retailing, such as large out-of-town stores, and how planning policy was dealing with those changes. Planning seemed like exactly the kind of subject that appealed to me - based in geography, but with an interest in shaping places.

What was the best thing about your time as a student at Cardiff?

I recall enjoying getting out and seeing places as part of the course - from Rhiwbina Garden Village and Cardiff Bay in Cardiff, to Tenby, Dublin and Prague. Plus hurtling up the Taff Trail on a mountain bike towards Castell Coch.

What thing or person inspired you most whilst you were a Cardiff University student?

Mark Tewdwr-Jones - now Professor at University College London - showed me that you can carve out a career being interested in what planners do; and practitioners Wyn Thomas and Paul Vining for providing me with some practical experience to complement my studies.

What one thing would you tell someone else about the School of Planning and Geography at Cardiff?

The real diversity that exists within the School - it's a very wide and encompassing definition of 'planning'. It helps to recognise the wider context within which your work is undertaken.

How did your degree most help you in the career or job you have now chosen?

It made me realise my interest in studying planning - thinking a little more abstractly about what planners do - rather than doing planning.

What opportunities do you feel have opened up to you as a result of being a student at the Cardiff School of Planning and Geography?

For me, it's largely been about meeting past students, both those who studied here well before me and those that have studied since I've been lecturing in the School. There's an intangible 'Cardiff connection' whenever you meet them.

Tell us any interesting facts about yourself, hobbies or interests that you have.

I enjoy finding out about past changes in the built environment in places that I've lived and worked - bits of hidden history where you've got to know it's there to find it or notice it, or more sadly, lost buildings and the history that goes with them. Real ale - plus a little bit of home brewing - also features. And more recently, I've taken up learning Welsh - it's something I promised myself I'd do in working in a Welsh university - I've finally got around to it and I'm really enjoying it. The aim is, at some point in the (distant!) future, to be able to do a lecture or presentation in Welsh.