Audio recording of Pat Willoughby (b. 1957)
PW discusses her reasons for joining David Lock Associates as its first planner. David had an excellent reputation as a town planner and she was excited and wanted to be part of joining a start up business. She talks about the very early days where they were based in David and Jeanette’s daughter Katie’s bedroom and how she became a Director of the company because David wanted to impress the bank manager. She talks of her love of urban regeneration and responding to the challenge of how the climate change agenda has changed the priorities in the last few years. She was Project Manager of the Marston Vale eco town and talks in depth about Masrston Vale in particular and the eco towns movement generally and the way in which the process was badly handled by central government. She talks about the phrase ‘nimbys’ and how it shouldn’t be a derogatory term for it is quite natural for people to be scared of change and to be wary of the lifestyle they bought into (a rural existence for example) being transformed into an urban one. She expresses her belief that there should be a national policy for eco towns, similar to a New Towns Act, but with a different mechanism to deliver them – a much more collaborative process is needed today that has a strong delivery vehicle that includes both the private sector developers and the local community. Asked about convincing local people to embrace change, PW believes that every process should start with a very detailed consultation, engagement and exchange of dialogue with local people as well as with local government etc. Gone are the days when people could disappear off to do a master plan and present it later with a public meeting and a few boards in an exhibition. Local people have a legitimate role in shaping the master plan.
Asked about what skills are needed to be a good planner, PW cites perseverance, patience and a long lead in time, very good people skills and a degree of humility – ‘you’re not the sole reservoir of good ideas’. Whilst the technical expertise they bring to a project is vital, PW does not think they can be parachuted into a an area for a few months and that they must listen to and engage with local people and involve them in shaping the final product. She mentions using ‘Design Charettes’, 3 to 5 day brainstorming processes with stakeholders to help shape a master plan.
She comments on the long time between original planning to realisation and how they can combat a project being out of date as priorities change. The long term vision is articulated in a master plan that binds everyone’s aspirations together but within that there is a flexibility over the details that allows change to take place over a long period of time. ‘Some of the most fantastic environments we have are planned communities and she includes Milton Keynes in this and expresses her disappointment that the latest development at Brooklands on the Eastern flank has strayed from the original master plan in favour of embracing the ideals of New Urbanism’. This was a job done by David Lock Associates, so she admits to not always agreeing with her colleagues!