Chief encounters: Petra Biberbach, Planning Aid Scotland

Scrabble crop

Planning Aid Scotland (PAS) chief executive Petra Biberbach on Scrabble, her golf swing and giving back

10th January 2018 by TFN 0 Comments

What makes a good day at work?

For me every day is a good day, I love what I am doing and believe passionately in the opportunities we provide to engage more and more people in the place agenda. Any challenges – well, they are there to be overcome. Our society is experiencing significant challenges, particularly demographic changes and we now more than ever need new approaches to address the needs of our increasingly diverse society. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is indeed a form of madness. If we believe that homelessness and lack of affordable homes are unacceptable in this day in age, then we need to use opportunities such as the new planning bill to do things differently. More of the same will not help us solve the intractable challenges we face in our communities. And at the same time we need to foster more meaningful dialogue involving everyone, young and old to create places fit for all.

How many hours do you normally work in a week?

Not counting – I have a good life work balance and that is what matters.

What do you procrastinate over?

Coffee or tea.

What turns you into the office Victor Meldrew?

When I encounter people who act like Victor Meldrew!

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

I used to work in the private and public sectors – all have their plus and minuses. However, I am happy in an organisation where causes matter and values are shared across the organisation. The third sector has a vital role to play in shaping people’s lives.  

Petra Biberbach

Petra Biberbach

What happens during your perfect weekend?

Playing a round of golf, hopefully not too badly, singing in my choir, a visit to the cinema and socialising with my friends.

What’s your favourite film?

The Life of Others – a fascinating insight of the working of the secret police in East Germany and its impact on family, friends and a whole society. 

Would we all be better off if charities did more in our society?

There’s a balance to be struck. Rather than simply filling in gaps in provision, I think the third sector is undervalued for what it provides in innovation. I think society would be better off with more innovators all round.

What’s your new year’s resolution?

Be kind, be forgiving and go out dancing.

You’re home, fully fed with your feet up – which comes first Eastenders or Facebook?

Neither – I prefer Scrabble and failing that, a good book by Henning Mankell does the trick.

Is this a step on the ladder or your final destination?

I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to lead PAS for the last 12 years. It’s a privilege each day to work with a network of such fantastic volunteers who provide much needed support and expertise to communities across Scotland. None of us knows where the road will lead, but I’m still very much enjoying the journey with PAS.

What do you think is the main strength of the Scottish charity sector?

The people who work in it.

What was the most outrageous planning decision of 2017?

The most outrageously good planning decision of 2017 was the decision to make the new planning bill focus on involving young people. We’ve been working for over a decade to proactively bring young people into the decision-making processes in communities across Scotland. Last year, we worked with students from Galashiels Academy to develop a new digital app version of the Place Standard tool, to help everyone have a say in how their place can be improved. Young people being involved at the earliest stages of decision-making is a good example of active citizenship in action.

What does your dream retirement look like?

More volunteering and giving back. I can’t see myself ever sitting still or being retired in the traditional sense of the word. Although that said, a little more time to work on my golf swing wouldn’t go amiss.

Brian Denis Cox or Brian Edward Cox?

Probably a bit of both – a bit of brain and a bit of banter – perfect!