Town planner: ‘London is booming and I want to be a part of that’

Case study: James Donlon

James Donlon: “They are all enthusiastic about meeting other Irish planners, and about keeping a foot in the door at home as well, so they might be able to return at some point.”

James Donlon: “They are all enthusiastic about meeting other Irish planners, and about keeping a foot in the door at home as well, so they might be able to return at some point.”

Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 01:02

James Donlon (26) felt lucky to secure a JobBridge place on a graduate programme with a town planning agency in Dublin in July 2011.

But by the end of the year, they were packing boxes as the office was closed down by UK management. He was let go along with the last remaining employee.

“I was deflated, after doing a master’s in London and coming back to Ireland to work for little more than the dole. I was very ambitious, and tired of being helped out by my parents,” he says.

Top consultancy

After several trips back and forth to Britain for interviews, he was offered a position with one of the top town planning consultancies in London and quit his temporary job with AIB. He arrived in the city in February last year.

Along with a colleague from Co Longford, Alan Hannify, Donlon set up the London Irish Town Planners Network to bring people they knew in the industry together.

Membership has since grown to 160, mostly made up of young town planners like himself who have arrived in the city from Ireland for work in the past few years.

Hard labour

“There’s a huge number of us over here. Gone are the days when the Irish in London were only involved in hard labour; most of the young people here are involved in professional industries,” he says.

“They are all enthusiastic about meeting other Irish planners, and about keeping a foot in the door at home as well, so they might be able to return at some point.

“For me, Ireland is appealing for a quieter life with a family down the line.

“But London is booming right now, and at 26 I want to be a part of that.”