In 1997, he co-founded TEP - the Environment Partnership. Last week, he won the Landscape Institute's Peter Youngman award for an outstanding contribution to landscape. He is retired but not retiring in his views.
Q. What is your biggest achievement?
A. Working on Warrington new town, where we created 36 parks and transformed dereliction into beauty. Birchwood, a district in the north-east of the town, was a former 400ha ordinance factory that was transformed into Birchwood Forest Park. Landscape and trees helped define three residential neighbourhoods. The bulk of my Warrington work was between 1972 and 1989.
Q. Planners get a lot of stick. Is it justified?
A. Not at all. I'm very concerned that the profession has become downtrodden. I believe that residents should have a say and I believe in localism, but the system needs to be harnessed by trained professionals. Developers want quick approvals and I worry that schemes will get rushed through that prove inadequate or wrong for a particular site. People say the planning process takes too long, but there are not enough staff because of budget cuts.
Q. How can green space professionals make their case?
A. I remember having difficult debates with finance, estates and development professionals, but you've got to hold your corner and fight the landscape cause. It really helps if you can hone your skills in budget management and contract negotiation. Fortunately, developers have become much more aware of the importance of landscape. But for those who haven't, you need to point them to a welter of evidence around them. Britain needs lots more housing but people have got to want to live in what is built. We knew all those years ago that to bring people into the new towns we had to create pleasant and safe green spaces. Warrington, a typical northern industrial area, was transformed into a green and very pleasant land, which won an award from the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Q. Are today's parks as good as yours were?
A. I'm a former Green Flag judge and trustee of the Mersey and Red Rose Community Forests, and I'm still amazed how tidy and well-kept our parks and woodlands are, given current budget restrictions. It's easy for the Government to say volunteers should get out into their parks, but I don't see many politicians doing it.
Q. What do you think of the Olympic Park?
A. I think the project is absolutely fantastic and the whole legacy thing is a wonderful ideal. I know some of the project team, LDA Design, including senior partner Robert Tregay, who used to be my deputy at Warrington. He is an excellent landscape architect and I feel sure his company will do an excellent job. TEP is also helping with landscape management advice, and I'm very proud of the team.
Q. How can practices survive this recession?
A. First, be optimistic. I believe that the financial problems in the UK and abroad will get resolved in the next few years. It also helps for practices not to put all their eggs in one basket. TEP, for example, has designers, ecologists, foresters, planners and landscape managers. This gives companies the adaptability to move into emerging sectors and new markets.
Q. How should we plan for those better days?
A. The talk is of localism but we have to think a little more globally and export our landscape, engineering and technical skills to emerging countries. Times are tough economically but we can still be an export nation. I recently visited Hong Kong and Singapore and am aware there's a lot of scope in China. Exciting things are also happening in Australia and if you have a desire to explore the world there are plenty of opportunities for business. You also need to focus on teamwork. I could not have achieved the Landscape Institute award without the support of the various teams I have worked with over the years and, of course, my family.
Q. Do you miss work after your long career?
A. After 42 years of practice I feel I've deserved a break. I still keep in touch with former work colleagues and other landscape and planning projects and read the trade journals. I live in Hexham, Northumberland, a beautiful part of the world, near Hadrian's Wall, the Kielder Forest and the coast. My wife and I have children and grandchildren and my life now centres around them and my day-to-day tasks around the house and garden - quite enough, thank you.
1972-76: Principal landscape architect, Warrington New Town Development Corporation
1976-87: Chief landscape architect and manager, Warrington & Runcorn Development Corporation
1987-97: Partner, Gillespies
1997-2009: Partner and principal consultant, TEP
2011: Peter Youngman lifetime achievement award, Landscape Institute