I believe the places we live shape the people we become. Growing up in a co-operative community in Kent set up by my grandfather, I learned the importance of collaboration, inclusion and community. It also gave me a deep-rooted sense of our responsibility to those around us.
Design that connects people back to place has been central to my role as a design champion. Places are spaces for human interaction and it is important that design is understood to be more than just the aesthetics. It’s about effective problem solving from the outset, making buildings human-scale and user friendly, developing smarter procurement, enhancing the environment and improving quality of life, not only for those who benefit directly, but for the communities and places nearby.
For this to be achieved it is essential that people are included in the design process from the outset. That is why I am delighted to be appointed as an Independent Non-Executive Director for U+I, bringing Board level oversight to U+I’s recent commitments to ensure its PPP schemes work for the benefit of all. As part of the role, I’ll be overseeing the establishment of a new independent Community Challenge Panel, which will evaluate how U+I’s PPP schemes are delivered, ensuring the company meets the commitments it makes from the start.
I’ll also be assisting in the establishment of an internal design panel which will review and challenge the company’s commitment to design excellence. These initiatives, alongside U+I’s other commitments to its PPP projects, such as a Community Engagement Fund, will help ensure that local communities engage more effectively in the planning process, and that U+I’s projects never lose sight of the people they are intended for.
It is my ambition that this new role will provide a framework for practical change in the way U+I – and the industry as a whole – approaches projects. It will help ensure that the values of community, responsibility and inclusion don’t remain buzzwords, but are translated into real, accountable actions. We need to listen to the people who will live, work and play in the places we create to ensure that we are delivering spaces that will benefit everyone.