Geddes-Gram: “We have fabulous diversity of landscapes and urban forms” – Sue Evans

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We have put together a series of questions to get to know what you think about the Scotland’s (and beyond) built environment, inspired by Sir Patrick Geddes, the pioneering urban planner and geographer. Here our Board Member, Sue Evans, answers our Geddes-Gram. 

What’s your favourite environment; town/city/country/village? 

I’m happiest when I’m walking preferably out in nature on a mountain ridge or in upland pasture where there are great views and I can spot some wildlife or interesting vegetation. I don’t need absolute wilderness; I enjoy seeing other people out and about working the land or enjoying themselves too.

What place in Scotland makes you happiest – and why?

If I’m not up a mountain, I do enjoy visiting Scotland’s amazing gardens. I discovered Drummond Castle by Crieff a few years ago on a spectacularly hot summer’s day. The Italianate garden was looking amazing and the experience of being in Italy was enhanced by the scents of the flowers and the heat captured by the retaining walls. It was pretty memorable.

I’d also quite like to live in the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. The sitting room has to be one of the most amazing spaces I’ve ever been in. It gives me great joy every time I visit.

Where do you go to get away from it all?

It depends on my mood.  Getting away from it all could be as simple as switching off my phone, reading a good book, visiting an art gallery, going for a swim or seeing friends.

If you had a ‘place super power’ what would you do for Scotland’s places?

My power would be a kindness cloak which you could throw over an individual or a group of people and which would bring about a shared consciousness so that everyone under the cloak sets aside their differences, biases and self-interests to work towards solutions that deliver public good for the majority and not the few and for the have-nots rather than the haves.

What do you think are our biggest challenges in the Built Environment?

The biggest single challenge is climate change. Our settlements, infrastructure and agriculture are not yet equipped to deal with climate change. As a society we need to do what we can to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change and do what we can to maximise the opportunities. This will require communities, businesses, politicians, policy makers, researchers and built environment practitioners to collaborate and cooperate to develop solutions appropriate locally, regionally and nationally.

Hopefully, easier to fix would be shifting public spending from a focus on new capital projects to looking after what we already have.  We are trapped in a cycle of big investment followed by no or low maintenance leading to disrepair and failure which then requires another capital injection.  This doesn’t make sense, especially when you factor in sustainability and that revenue spend is much more likely to benefit the local economy.

What place here, or abroad, could we most learn from?

“Every day is a school day”. We need to be learning from everywhere else, all of the time. Likewise, there is much in Scotland for others to learn from. There’s a whole professional tourism offer that could be developed to encourage technical visitors to come and learn.

Anything make you mad in Scotland’s places?

Apart from the midges which really go for me?

Not much but I am saddened by creeping urbanisation in rural areas – suburban housing layouts and materials, excessive road signs, street lighting and kerbs outside of settlement boundaries.  We just need to take a bit more care to safeguard local character.

What has ‘Scotland the place’ got that we should protect forever?

We have fabulous diversity of landscapes and urban forms. Those responsible for development need to ensure that policies and plans fully respect this diversity as once lost special local characteristics be they natural or man-made can be difficult if not impossible to replace.

Optimist or pessimist for our High Streets?

On balance, optimistic but on certain conditions.

Firstly, if we are to continue to want to buy goods and experience services on the high street then there needs to be a shift from taxing high street businesses, especially in small towns, towards taxing on-line retailers and out of town malls who currently operate at an advantage.

Secondly, we need high quality and low-cost public transport and pleasant cycling and walking routes to encourage shoppers/users back to the high street.

Thirdly, we need to do so much more to improve the experiential quality of our high streets – look at our European counterparts and you’ll find clean, litter-free streets that are actively looked after with welcoming trees, planting and seats, artworks and (functioning) water features. Investment in caring for places is seen as wise investment unlike here where stuff has to be broken before it is fixed or replaced making our streets appear unloved and uncared for and putting enormous strain on budgets.

 

Do you want to answer our Geddes-Gram in the future? Get in touch with us on info@ads.org.uk

(updated September 2018)

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