Interview: Ian Rae at Hounslow Council
Tue 2 December 2014, 11:23 am
Ian Rae joined Hounslow Council as head of regeneration and planning policy in September 2013, as the local authority was developing its Local Plan. Rae spoke to Great West magazine about this process and Hounslow's achievements and planning for development and regeneration
Which projects are you most proud of being involved in?
It was fantastic to join the council at a time when Hounslow's Local Plan was being prepared, and the opportunity to lead this to examination has been extremely satisfying. The plan has been a long time coming since the 2003 Unitary Development Plan, and I feel the new plan does an excellent job in getting the balance right to secure high-quality development while giving developers certainty about what types of and where in the borough the council is seeking development, and what developers need to do to achieve planning permission. This can help inform their decision about whether to invest in land, and pay the right price for it with a reduced risk.
I am also very proud that our team has delivered the new market square in Brentford town centre. The positive difference the improvements have made to the town centre are even greater than expected, judging by the widespread praise that has been given to the new square by residents, businesses, the mayor and development industry. I can really now see the square acting as a catalyst for further town improvements, especially with the even greater confidence instilled into the council to deliver.
What three developments or enhancements would most benefit Hounslow?
Along the Golden Mile, public transport enhancements to link the area to Crossrail at Southall and Old Oak Common would drive economic regeneration further.
While the Crossrail linkages could enable a further one million people to be based within commutable distance of the Golden Mile, it will be important to improve linkages within the borough so that more residents and small businesses can access skilled jobs and supply chain opportunities.
The Feltham masterplan. Feltham is a town centre of huge potential, but an agreed strategy put together by key stakeholders will be vital to enable those opportunities to be delivered. Improving image and establishing an identity for the town will be a key part of this.
The Hounslow High Street Quarter. This mixed-use development has real momentum behind it, and will radically enhance the whole look and feel of the town centre, especially in the development of the evening economy.
What things have surprised you about working in the borough?
While the diversity of the borough has come as no surprise, the sense of community and willingness of residents and local community groups to input and help shape future plans has been refreshing, especially as this has been done in such a way to recognise both the need for, and the potential for growth and regeneration. The amount of heritage across the borough has also been a welcome surprise.
When people find out you work in the borough, what are the most common things they ask?
Most people ask about Heathrow – but they also ask me about the areas that actually fall within the boundaries of the borough. People are often quite surprised that the borough spans as far east as Chiswick, and as far west as Feltham – often struggling to think beyond Hounslow town centre itself. In this sense the borough is quite unique given its wide east-west axis, and it genuinely provides a diverse slice of London.
If you could change one thing about working in Hounslow, what would it be?
I can certainly see the benefits in relocating the council’s offices to Hounslow town centre. We do currently feel a little physically isolated from the high street, and I think the regeneration benefits – including supply chain opportunities for local businesses – as well as being more outwardly facing to the community, would significantly benefit the town centre as a whole.
And finally, what is your favourite gadget and why?
Definitely my GPS running watch – I don’t go running as often as I would like, but the average speed and various stats it gives me brings out my competitive streak and makes sure I don’t neglect this too much as it’s a good way of re-energising after work and keeping fit for other sports that I enjoy such as football and badminton.
For more exclusive interviews with senior officers and councillors from London's local authority's, visit the borough profiles on the Sitematch London website.