Interview: Noel Rutherford at Ealing Council

Wed 14 January 2015, 3:24 pm

In an exclusive interview with 3Fox International Ealing in London publisher and organiser of property event, Sitematch Ealing Council's director of built environment, Noel Rutherford, talks about Ealing's past, present and future and talks about the people and places that inspire him

Ealing Council's director of built environment, Noel Rutherford

Which projects are you most proud of being involved in?

Navigating the complex journey that led Southall Gasworks to getting planning approval was a key achievement. It was a project undelivered for more than 20 years. Now a new quarter will be created in Southall, bringing prime retail and leisure facilities to the town and over 3,500 much-needed homes for future generations of west Londoners. 

On a smaller scale, but also important in its own way, was getting the Dickens Yard development behind the town hall in Ealing approved and underway. While the project is not vast, it told the development world we were open for business and that has subsequently helped draw many of the bigger players in the industry to invest here.

Finally, I was proud of leading the rebuilding and recovery of our town after the Ealing bomb in 2001. It showed what can be achieved in times of adversity and helped make Ealing a stronger and better community. I felt good about that one.

What three developments or enhancements would most benefit Ealing?

With five stations coming to the borough, Crossrail is going to be transformational. It has given us the opportunity to intensify development around transport interchanges, delivering much-needed homes and employment opportunities, as well as adding to the local retail experience. At Ealing Broadway, outside the station, the new Arcadia development will be an important gateway into our town and should be a development to be proud of. 

Also, our work on the “mini Holland” initiative, ensuring our road networks around key town centres are to be calmed by our support and by GLA investment, which will see cycling and walking initiatives provided as alternatives for local people's movement, helping us keep the essence of Ealing intact.

Which three developments outside of Ealing do you most admire and why?

Focusing on London, I think the work Argent have done on Kings Cross sets a high bar. They have shown that by working in partnership with councils and genuinely engaging with local communities, quality development can happen and still be profitable.

I love the work of Ken Shuttleworth and the Swiss Re/Gherkin show that new tall buildings can be beautiful as well as functional. The Shard impresses me for the vision it took to put something of that scale and significance in that location and as someone who originally came from a building background, the engineering feat in its creation was amazing.

What was your first impression of Ealing when you started out working there?

Fresh air in leafy green suburbia but quite accessible.

What things have surprised you about working in the borough?

I was surprised by the diversity of the place. As a non-central London borough we have some of the most deprived wards in the country while also being home to some of the most affluent residential locations in the capital. We also are home to one of the biggest industrial estates in Europe at Park Royal. Our population is global, with our schools having pupils who speak over 100 different languages. We have seven towns, the largest of which are very urban, but we also have over 100 parks and the place feels fresh and somewhere you can breathe.

What makes developers good partners?

Essential ingredients are integrity, open communication, delegated authority to speed decision-making and a human face. We want partners who can see how best to deliver mutual benefits, who are interested in developing a long-term relationship and not just a quick profit.

When people find out you work in the borough, what are the most common things they ask?

Have you got any good sites?

If you could change one thing about working in Ealing, what would it be?

Perceval House, the office in which we are based in central Ealing. It is badly designed, inefficient and an example of how not to do it. We will have to change that, so watch this space.

Which three people have inspired you the most – either at work or in your personal life?

It sounds pretentious, but Leonardo Da Vinci is the one that first comes to mind. He bridged the gap between artist and scientist. Success in our industry is about making that tension work. Coming from a science background myself but working largely with planners and designers, I know how difficult that can be.

Ken Shuttleworth – I just love his work.

Kofi Annan – a humble man who just makes things happen.

If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go and why?

I have only ever passed through Malaysia and never stopped in Kuala Lumpar. I love tall buildings of quality and am yet go up the Petronas Towers. It is on my list.

Which sporting occasion has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

The League Cup final in 1967. As a seven year-old boy I saw Queens Park Rangers' only real trophy success. My wife believes I have been wasting my Saturdays there ever since, waiting for the next one. It is hard to argue with her but they have become welcome and consistent punctuation marks in a busy working life.

When did your most memorable meeting take place and what made it so special?

The Irish Ambassador to London at an embassy reception shared with me his collection of Irish whiskies. It was a memorable encounter.

What is your favourite gadget?

I love my iPad.

What is your biggest professional achievement?

I hope it is still to come!

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