CABE Space director Julia Thrift has answered concerns that the organisation will lose its identity when she departs this summer (HW, 18 May and 8 June).
She said: “People in the parks sector have always been very worried about that. When CABE Space started three years ago, they were worried it wouldn’t address parks issues. We have demonstrated that we can and the job that has been advertised is the same job. There really isn’t a change.
“From the beginning, the remit was to champion better public space, including streetscapes, not just parks. The challenge ahead is to view urban areas as a whole.
“In this country, we separate parks and streetscapes, but it’s all one environment, really. Other countries do it better, with not such a segregated approach.”
Thrift said CABE had grown rapidly and that now it had stabilised at 100 staff, there is an opportunity “to join things up more, so it can think about whole environment”.
Thrift said CABE had been doing skills work for parks people and highway engineers — “something the parks audience was probably not aware of”.
“There is now an opportunity to get understanding of green space issues to a wider audience through working with CABE.”
She said there was no change of emphasis of the CABE name: “We sometimes use the CABE Space brand and sometimes CABE, for communications purposes.”
Thrift said she was not disillusioned with CABE: “It’s inevitable that gets out, but I’m leaving for personal reasons.
“I loved setting up CABE Space. It’s a full-on, demanding role requiring lots of travel. I don’t want to do so much travelling or so many hours, but I’ll continue to do projects for CABE. I will be self-employed and more controlled in the amount of work I take on. It’s a quality of life thing — there’s no sinister reason behind this.
“CABE is sometimes seen as a very powerful organisation, but all it can do is persuade people to do things, often through me travelling to conferences and events. To do well, you need a lot of energy, but I don’t feel that in the next few years I want to be quite so energetic.”
She said her successor needs to be aware that “a lot of the job is political and funded by the Government, so it’s about dealing with ministers and senior civil servants”.
“That’s an aspect some don’t realise. There’s a lot of persuading people. I hope the sector can provide somebody. There’s a lot of very bright people out there.”
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