Planner, architect and leader of Croydon Council’s placemaking team Vincent Lacovara talks to the AJ about why he is leaving the south London borough for new challenges north of The Thames
Why have you decided to make this switch? And why now?
I’ve been at Croydon Council for 15 years and have seen plans evolve from visions through to detailed, joined-up plans, planning consents and projects being built and enjoyed by people; with more exciting projects on their way. Croydon has real momentum now.
The council has an ambitious leadership and many talented officers making great things happen, including many who come from a design background. It feels like the right time for me to hand over to my team and I am confident that I am leaving the work in very good hands. Enfield presents me with fresh challenges in a new place and the opportunity to continue to demonstrate the value of good design and proactive planning.
What will be your role at Enfield?
I will be the new head of planning
What will be the first thing you will do when you arrive?
I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know my new team and am also keen to explore Enfield’s places and get under the skin of the borough: its history, landscape, communities, economy and developments – past, present and those proposed for the future.
Will you be needing the help of architects in that new role?
Enfield has a brilliant new place and design quality panel, which includes architects as well as other built environment professionals – much like Croydon’s place review panel. These panels are critical to encouraging excellence across all kinds of development that contribute to the success of places.
Architects should be actively involved in shaping planning policy and guidance
Architects will also obviously be involved in designing new developments coming forward in the borough but should also be actively involved in shaping planning policy and guidance and the evidence that underpins it.
What are you most proud of having achieved at Croydon?
I am proud of the team that I have helped build over the past decade, the design team culture that I have helped engender and the work that the team has produced and facilitated; from developing planning policies to helping enable high-quality schemes – big and small – through the development management process. I am particularly proud of the series of collaborative masterplans that my team led and the projects that have been catalysed by them, including a series of public realm and infrastructure improvement projects and major developments in places like East Croydon and Cane Hill in Coulsdon.
What advice would you give to whoever takes over your role?
What lessons do you think you can transfer from Croydon to Enfield?
At Croydon I have learnt at first hand the value and importance of proactive and progressive public planning and have developed a huge respect and admiration for planners and planning as a profession.
I have also learnt the importance of putting the effort in to understand what is special about existing places; to assume nothing; to continue to challenge one’s self to look hard and be prepared to be surprised by what you find.