A Northumberland man who left school with no plan and found his way to the top of the planning profession has launched his own firm.

Now Tony Carter is hoping his new Morpeth-based consultancy Carter-Smith can help others realise their dreams – whether it’s a construction project or a step up into a planning career.

The company has big ambitions to create jobs and give graduates a leg up into the career he eventually made his life.

As a former principal planning officer for Northumberland County Council and independent local planning expert, Tony believes his knowledge of the North East – its geography, people and planning rules – gives him an edge over other firms.

Born in Hepscott Park, near Morpeth, (coincidently in later life he became case officer for planning developments on the site), Tony did not follow the traditional career route into planning. He spent time in the army, then re-joined civvy street as a lorry driver, bus driver, firefighter and dog warden before finding his vocation and rising through the ranks in the planning world.

As a firefighter he hit the headlines in 2005 for rescuing a canoeist from the freezing River Wansbeck when the man’s winter canoeing trip went disastrously wrong.

“I haven’t taken the normal academic route to get where I am today. Back in the day, I had few qualifications but through the work and research I’ve done, I know the people and the area and I have life experience that makes me look at things differently,” he said.

“Planning is a fascinating and rewarding subject and, although my route into it wasn’t exactly planned, I think I can spot raw talent and help others get into the field. If business keeps growing as it is, I hope to be able to recruit more staff and devise a graduate scheme to attract the brightest and best. I got my town planning degree later in life but I’d like to help others get a head start using my experience and knowledge of planning.”

Carter Smith offers a one-stop shop for all aspects of planning, including complex local development plan requirements, planning applications and appeals.

But it is Tony’s first-hand local knowledge and in-depth research that sets him apart. Carter-Smith is currently working on a number of retail, industrial and housing projects across the North East.