I am absolutely honoured and thrilled to be crowned the 2019 CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Champion! After the awards ceremony somebody said to me “your face was a real picture as you approached the stage to receive your award”. I was convinced that the award would go to someone else.
The success of the Cotton End Forest School project was owed to the huge collaborative effort made by all involved. There were some tough challenges to overcome along the way. In a way I find it easy to write what follows….what it is that makes a candidate for the Biodiversity Champion award.
Key attributes such as Leadership, Commitment, Accountability, Empowerment, Being Customer Focussed and Being Human are embedded in the make up of Willmott Dixon people. I was involved in the school project from its time in preconstruction right through to post completion. During that time, I made many site visits, engaging with project management and our supply chain people. I am an advisor as well as an auditor in my job role. It’s very easy to apply a systematic approach and look at things in black and white. I refrained from doing so and sat down with the team on many occasions to ask how things were going, how they felt about everything and if there was anything I could do to help? Just simply listening to what they had to say went along way towards maintaining momentum and a belief that everything planned for in regard to Biodiversity Enhancement would be achievable. I mentioned the word “collaborative” earlier. I felt I was no different to anyone else, I had my part to play in achieving the eventual success that we see now.
A key moment in the project came about in the summer of 2018 when I presented a Biodiversity Roadshow to the project team. I spoke about the importance of Biodiversity improvement, the positive legacy that would be born from it and the opportunities that the Cotton End Forest School project presented. There were concerns over some of the deliverables. However, the team were able to overcome them and delivered to the customer a product (the School) that would enjoy a wealth of Biodiversity. The project included a network of swales that fed into a permeable pond, a grassed amphitheatre, grasslands, existing and new vegetation, an orchard, new woodlands, planter troughs for school children to learn about fruit and vegetable planting as well as the concept of self-sufficiency and self-sustaining wildflower mix areas.
I now look back upon the project fondly, mainly because I appreciate the scale of achievement gained. It serves as a perfect example of what positive collaborative working can bring. I am also grateful for the opportunities it has allowed me to showcase in becoming this year’s BIG Biodiversity Champion.
A message to anyone hoping to become next year’s Biodiversity Champion. Ensure a great team spirit, even if you feel that there are other persons involved with higher authority that should be doing that. The greatest achievements are realised when everyone pulls together.