I was born on the Island and brought up on a busy market garden, where my parents grew and supplied the Isle of Wight with most of the lettuces consumed here for many years. Although my older brother perfected the technique for making the packaging quicker than I could, I could beat him packing the produce itself (my younger brother was usually climbing or driving something he shouldn't have been at the time, but it was before Health & Safety, so it was OK!)
Apart from attending university in the late 1990s to study for a BSc Leisure Resource Management, I have lived on the Isle of Wight all of my life. I only went as far as Portsmouth University and returned home every other weekend to work at my local swimming pool and Chinese takeaway so was never too far from the Island at any time.
After graduating, I travelled around Europe, and saw many natural and built wonders, from the magnificence of the Matterhorn in Switzerland to castles straight out of fairy tales dotted along the Danube, but perhaps my favourite sight was sitting outside on the Lymington to Yarmouth ferry on a very chilly but calm, star-filled autumn night, watching Yarmouth getting closer and closer, and knowing that I'd soon be home.
I returned to work at West Wight Sports Centre and was lucky enough that my work colleagues put up with my itchy feet, as in 2002, I left once more to venture to New Zealand and the Far East (all in the name of research of course, my MSc Ecotourism thesis, 'Culture for a Quid' was investigating cultural appropriation before it was even a thing).
I won't lie, spending a few months in New Zealand made me question whether the Island was really for me after all, but over 20 years later, I'm still here, having added a third (and final!) degree to my name - MA Town & Country Planning, along with my wife, our four kids and two dogs, I have recently designed and built my childhood dream house on the former lettuce patch where I spent many years helping on the family business.
A planning officer once said to me after an argument had erupted between my client and the planning officer, "Simon, we're all human, even us planning officers" and so hopefully by providing you with a little about me, you can see that planning isn't always done by people in suits, working in the City (or County Hall) and although there is no material weight given to whether you're a nice person or not, the planning process needn't be continually confrontational, even if there are disagreements along the way.
Importantly, I recognise that my approach isn't for everyone and if you've made it this far, and you're thinking 'no way am I working with this prize clown' you'll find someone else to get involved in your project with, and that's absolutely fine! One of the most important things when undertaking any development is to assemble a team that you can work with, that you can pick up the phone and not feel that your calls are being screened or ignored and that you won't be made to feel stupid for asking any question no matter what it is.
PS The planning officer is still working with the Isle of Wight Council and perhaps does not realise the impact that his / her comment made all those years ago!