Architect Warren White used spare time during the recession to give back to his local community
Despite being born in Vancouver to Irish parents, I spent most of my school days in Milton Keynes, avidly watching the city grow up around me during the 1980s, and this inevitably influenced my career direction. We did not often discuss politics at home, and it was not until my fourth year at the Bartlett, when my unit tutor, Jeremy Till, challenged me to take a more critical look at the political and social context of architecture and planning, that the politics-in-architecture seed was sown.
After setting up my own practice in 2006, I found that the recession meant I had some unexpected time to spare, and wanted to use the opportunity to give something back to my community.
I realised my skills could achieve better results in the council chamber than the studio
I successfully stood for Buckingham Town Council in 2007, standing on a platform that made the case for a town plan and a proactive approach to planning. The Buckingham Plan evolved into the Neighbourhood Plan, which after a long and tortuous gestation finally goes to referendum this month.
It dawned on me how much local politics could achieve in influencing our built and natural environment if the right people were involved, and I realised that my skills as an architect were far better placed to achieve results in the council chamber than the studio.
So, in 2012 I decided to concentrate my efforts as a local councillor and was subsequently elected to Buckinghamshire County Council in 2013 (offices by Fred Pooley, 1966), and more recently Aylesbury Vale District Council last May.
In addition, I was appointed as cabinet member for planning and environment for Buckinghamshire in June; a not insignificant responsibility for a county of half a million residents, and one of the fastest growing areas in the country.
I know that I will never win a Stirling Prize as a local politician, but if I can create an environment that allows good architecture to flourish for the benefit of Buckinghamshire’s residents, then I will be quite happy.
- Warren Whyte runs a part time architectural consultancy WhyteConsult, and is the cabinet member for planning and environment for Buckinghamshire County Council