Those of you who have been paying attention will recall my reporting the astonishing statistic that more than 50% of the (what is actually rather a large) board of BURA were out of work, having recently been made redundant as our industry teeters on the brink of total collapse (Regeneration blog 06.10.09).
Well, not many weeks later, I am delighted to be able to report that (due, in large part, to their strong ability to adapt and respond) not one but two of our number have landed new jobs!
One, in particular, I am completely thrilled about! Our own Shawn Riley, recently of DTZ, has landed on his feet working for Wychavon district council as manager for the Evesham Market Town Partnership (the Local Strategic Partnership). The partnership (as the name suggests) focuses on Evesham (apparently, world famous for the British Asparagus Festival – I kid you not!) as well as the neighbouring villages.
Evesham is in at the heart of the Vale of Evesham – a beauteous part of mid-England, second only to Kent in the UK for producing fresh produce. Bless! Of course, this recession has hit rural communities particularly hard as the opportunities for alternative employment are limited and usually very low paid.
Shawn has been brought on board to help identify new economic opportunities for the area, ensure that the community can benefit from such opportunities and build on the already significant achievements to date.
Evesham has won many regional and national awards over the last few years for its regeneration work, which is a good indication of the esteem that the Evesham Market Town Partnership is held in.
This includes the Waterways Renaissance Awards 2006 from BURA and the Waterways Trust in the recreation and tourism category which (the highly regarded) Chris Brooks, head of regeneration at Wychavon, masterminded.
Evesham are lucky to get Shawn (pictured). When I first met him he was running his family’s greengrocers’ business in Brierley Hill and he went on to run the Brierley Hill Traders Association.
And then, following an apocryphal encounter with Nigel Hugill over the satsumas (seriously!) became an officer with Dudley metropolitan borough council, followed by a stint at the Brierley Hill Regeneration Partnership, before being brought in to head DTZ’s regeneration effort in the West Midlands. This is almost the model career for an urban regeneration practitioner.
Shawn is being brought in to replace Lew Hammond, who I understand will be a hard act to follow, but I know that our lad will be able to bring a wealth of experience, which he gained in an almost uniquely varied career and he will get real results for Evesham.
It is clear that he and the partnership’s new chairman, Cllr Gerry O’ Donnell (on Evesham Town council and a firm believer in bottom-up regeneration) will forge a formidable team to drive and deliver the localism agenda and achieve tangible benefits, for both businesses and residents of the Vale of Evesham.
I congratulate Chris and the rest of the team on this inspirational appointment. I look forward to hearing of progress.