AT the tender age of 14, a perceptive geography teacher told Mike Hayes that he would make a good town planner.

More than 40 years later the Watford Council director has just become president of the UK's most prestigious planning body.

Mr Hayes, 56, accepted the role with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) at a general assembly meeting last week.

"To be president is an enormous privilege and a huge challenge," said Mr Hayes, who heads up development and environment at the council. "I'll be the public face of the institute representing our members in the UK and those around the world."

Of the challenges the RTPI faces, Mr Hayes said: "Government, local communities and their professional advisers need to work together to argue for the resources and infrastructure that the sustainable communities strategy requires."

As Watford's corporate director for planning and the environment, Mr Hayes's brief covers everything from regeneration and transport to housing and technical services. He said: "In effect I'll be juggling two jobs at once, but the council has been very kind in letting me do this. I'll be at the institute at the end of the week and so it shouldn't interfere with my council work."