Architects have expressed their dismay at the sacking of Michael Heseltine from his roles advising the government on infrastructure and estate regeneration
Earlier this week the prime minister fired the Conservative peer from five government advisory roles after he backed an amendment in the House of Lords that there should be a ‘meaningful vote’ on the final Brexit deal.
The move came just as the AJ published an exclusive interview with Heseltine about his work on estate regeneration.
Heseltine’s recent work has included advising on the Swansea Bay City Deal, chairing the government’s estate regeneration advisory panel and acting as a commissioner on the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), which advises the government on long-term infrastructure challenges.
Sadie Morgan, director of dRMM and a member of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission Heseltine chaired, said his departure was a ‘huge loss’.
‘He’s one of those people who gets things done and is able to get the best out of people by inspiring them and showing real leadership, which is something that is few and far between on the ground at the moment, so I am really sad,’ she said. ‘It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside him and I’ll miss him.’
Morgan also worked alongside Heseltine as a commissioner on the NIC. ‘The wonderful thing about Michael is that he has all that experience but he still has the passion and enthusiasm to make change and get things done,’ she said. ‘He’s able to cut through a lot of the politics that can hold things back because he’s very adept at stepping over them or moving around them in order to get a result.’
She said he was ‘very generous in the way he operated with people’ and ‘hugely respected’ as a political figure. ‘If ever I’ve travelled with him around the country it’s like going with royalty,’ she said. ‘It’s extraordinary what an important figure he is.’
Heseltine launched a 17-strong panel, which he also co-chaired, in February last year to develop an estate regeneration national strategy and work with 100 estates to tackle deprivation. The strategy was published in December.
Panel member Félicie Krikler, director at Assael, said the peer’s sacking showed the ‘incompatibility of long-term regeneration projects and the political world, which is really volatile and can change at all times’.
‘Regardless of anyone’s personal views of Heseltine, it is really a shame that his experience and his determination are lost because of political motivations,’ she said.
Krikler added that Heseltine had been a ‘very good chair’ and would be missed. ‘He always made it quite challenging for everyone to answer precisely and bring their expertise,’ she said. ‘I feel like it’s been a privilege to meet him and be able to work with him, because of his experience.’
The panel is due to have its final meeting at the end of this month so Krikler does not think Heseltine’s departure will have a major impact on its work.
Fellow panel member Nicholas Boys Smith, founding director of the built environment social enterprise Create Streets, said Heseltine brought ‘enormous experience and judgement’ to his regeneration and infrastructure roles.
‘Particularly, and perhaps to the surprise of some, Heseltine was always admirably clear and direct that estate regeneration had to have local support and to be practically deliverable,’ he said. ‘He could not have been clearer.’
It was, he said, a ‘great pleasure’ to see the peer, who had ‘an expert and finely tuned sense for where power lay’, in action. ‘I never worked with him in his “prime”, he said. ‘Maybe the mane has faded a little with age, maybe not. I don’t know. But he still seemed a fairly formidable beast.’
The AJ has contacted the NIC to see whether Heseltine will be replaced as commissioner.