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Creating Space

A leading planner says her colleagues should adopt a creative attitude to development if regeneration is to result in genuine benefits

Planners tend to come in for a fair amount of stick, But Scott Wilson director Mary Holt, argues that they can be a force for good.

"I would really like planning to be seen as very positive thing," she says. "Some of our clients see it as just the opposite of that, but I'm a great believer in the planner as a facilitator to bring forward development.

"Development is not a bad thing," she continues. "We need development to help us achieve our social and economic goals. Regeneration can be a positive way of introducing change into a community."

Holt says she would like all planners to have that attitude. "Some time in the last 20 years they became administrators and forgot the flair they can bring to the change process. The planner is the person who should be able to see the potential and drive quality. I would like that to come back, because I think planning is such a positive tool."

Holt heads up Scott Wilson's planning and development business in the North and Midlands, a 160-strong multidisciplinary group that includes specialists in planning, transportation, ecology, archaeology, environmental issues and landscape assessment and design.

"We are an absolutely vital part of the process – particularly in terms of the sustainability agenda and addressing climate change issues," she explains. "Every major project has to address these issues now – whatever they might turn out to be."

Holt's clients include Severn Trent Water, for whom Scott Wilson has a six-year contract to provide planning services, helping the company through the planning process for upgrading and maintaining its sites. Since the floods earlier this year, this remit has extended to looking
at how Severn Trent's key installations can be protected from potential future flooding and at maintaining supply to isolated communities.

"Water resources are going to be a very big issues both in the UK and internationally," she says. "We have to look at how we safeguard supply. The flood showed how precarious that is."

From her base in the north of England, Holt says she can see the impact of the Olympics, and massive development in London on the South, but says her region is more focused on regeneration: "We've perhaps had much more of the remains of heavy industry to deal with, so one of our key issues is brownfield land and how it can be brought forward in a reasonable timescale for development." That's one of
the great benefits of sitting alongside a team of contaminated land specialists and geotechnical specialists: we can put together contaminated land strategies that really work. It's remediation in the broadest sense, and renewal of towns to recreate communities and support communities."

Scott Wilson will be exhibiting at Civils 2007 throughout the three days of the event. Holt will be on the company's stand on Thursday 22 November, and will be delighted to discuss issues related to planning, environment and regeneration.
The Dinner
One of the highlights of last year's Civils event was the celebration of young talent at the Emerging Engineering Design Awards, presented at the Civils networking dinner. The awards were launched last year by NCE and Buro Happold, and proved very successful at highlighting the role being played by young civil engineers in creating a vibrant, sustainable world.

This year's awards will be presented at the Civils 2007 networking dinner on Tuesday 20th November at the Park Plaza Riverbank hotel on the south side of the River Thames. As well as being a great networking opportunity, the dinner is sure to be both entertaining and informative, as the evening's speaker will be high-profile MP Lembit Opik.

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