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Sefton’s Derek praised for tackling mental health issue among town planners

A Sefton Council officer has been recognised for his work to raise awareness of mental health support for town planners with a top industry award.

Derek McKenzie, Sefton Council’s Chief Planning Officer has received an Outstanding Contribution Award by the outgoing president of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) for leading on a project to create a mental health and wellbeing hub for people who work within the high pressure sector.

The ‘President’s Special Award’ for 2021 was bestowed upon Derek after he championed the need for a platform to support his colleagues across the UK and further afield after recognising that more needed to be done.

Derek said: “We all have a duty of care to ourselves, but sometimes our focus in this area can be distracted by the many events that can impact on us in life. Sometimes we just might want some help, advice and support from someone else when all that is in our brain is a fog that inhibits our thought processes.

“Our profession covers a diverse area with public, private and third sector organisations and businesses of varying size and complexity. In my experience, members who work in the public sector or for large private businesses generally have more access to mental health support when feeling under pressure, while smaller private sector business, sole traders, retired members and some students generally have access to none or very little.

“In my own capacity as a Chief Planning Officer at Sefton Council, I am all too aware of the significant and sustained increases in the number of planning applications that have been submitted, which can quickly cause additional pressures on staff so it is vital that efforts are made to keep staff morale and wellbeing high.”

Derek is a well known figure in the Planning sector, having worked across local government organisations for a number of years, as well as playing a key role in delivering the iconic Dubai Palm island projects.

Sefton Council Chief Executive Dwayne Johnson welcomed Derek’s award, saying: “Derek is a fantastic member of our Planning & Building control service and he really appreciates the importance of maintaining good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

“It is a testament to Derek’s commitment to his position that he has worked on a wider mental health provision for his contemporaries elsewhere in the UK and abroad. Well done Derek!”

For more information about planning processes in Sefton, visit www.sefton.gov.uk/planning