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Last word from ... Ian Richardson.

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UK Public spaces: Visionary or banal?

Predictably a mixture of both, and sadly after the initial frisson wears off, as wear and tear take their toll and the maintenance standards are reduced or at times forgotten, blandness prevails. The real alarm call is that many open space audits have indicated that we, as users, are generally pleased with our spaces, when patently few achieve real quality consistently. Our most loved, most used community assets and we don't get round to demanding the best for them? We don't we get cross?

Most inspiring international town/city?

I don't get out much! But you can leave me any frosty afternoon on the Kapuzinerberg overlooking Salzburg as the mist comes down and I will know that there are still hours of pleasure left to explore the old town and the formal spaces across the city. Plenty of cyclists and walkers even in snowy weather, buses wherever and whenever you need them and a pride and enjoyment in communal spaces and their upkeep.

Spaces you love and loathe?

I love surprising places that appear before you almost unannounced, or show first one view and then another. So the favourite space in a 'park-like' setting must the Peace Pagoda Park at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes, the first in the West.

A pale stupa rooted in the earth with panels depicting the life of Buddha overlooking a lake full of visiting and resident waterfowl. A Japanese temple built by the monks and nuns tucked in a dell with its own gardens, open to everyone, everyday, every hour.

It really comes alive in June with its anniversary festival, but every day it provides a setting for walks, prayers, picnics, joggers, birdwatchers and cyclists.

I loathe anywhere green or grey where the management don't care, have no respect for users or staff, no enthusiasm, no wish to invest, no fond memories and no commitment. Too many places suffer this blight through lack of love and lack of a desire to try even on limited resources. We are not looking for gimmicks; just enough to make us happy and comfortable in the spaces. More than that is a dream to be welcomed.

Favourite project you have worked on recently?

Working with colleagues, trustees and volunteers at the Box Moor Trust and the Chilterns Woodlands Project Director, John Morris on the review of the trust's management of its woodlands and planning for their future. Such a lot to learn, but fuelled by a developing vision of investing for further centuries. They are nice places to walk to as well from the back door of our office, often full of children enjoying Forest School's activities or leisurely ramblers and now beginning to bustle with bird life and green sprouts.

Which design features make your heart sink and which lift your spirits?

I am tired by designs that are jaded pastiches of work that has gone before and even worse when delivered in the wrong setting.

I dislike schemes that take no real account of people; it's OK to challenge us, but not to exclude us.

Things that lift include lightness, sound, texture and the awesomeness of the monumental but mostly the quiet comforting of people's enjoyment of the spaces and their corners.

Any advice for someone starting out?

It's a great life, never stop learning from others including from their mistakes.

Don't do just one thing in one place, always look around for the best ideas that are happening, go there and learn about what is changing. There will be failures, but better that than being part of a rehearsal of the same old stuff

If you were given a million pounds for the public sector what would you spend it on?

I wouldn't really give it to them!

I would ask that they used it as seed funding to harness the power of the voluntary sector and encourage the development of social enterprises to deliver the green apprentices of the future. People with the skills and commitment to really develop, and manage the community's spaces.

Ian Richardson Former access development officer Northamptonshire County Council and Connect2 project officer, Ian is also general manager for the Box Moor Trust, Hertfordshire.
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Title Annotation:LAST WORD; general manager for Box Moor Trust
Author:Richardson, Ian
Publication:Green Places
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Words:702
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