We want you to get to know our Champions better and so we sat down for a series of fascinating conversations to allow them to give us an insight into their role and involvement in Creative Estuary, what their aspirations are for the project and their love for our stunning estuary.
Peter Hogg is London City Executive and UK Cities Director and Partner at Arcadis.
Tell us about your current role/s:
I work at an organisation called Arcadis, which is a Dutch based global project management design and engineering firm. Our mission as a business is to improve quality of life through the work that we do in the built environment. Our heritage as an organisation is one focused on land reclamation and water management Over the last 134 years we have evolved and diversified but the one thing that has never changed is our focus on improving the places we get involved with.
What is your involvement in Creative Estuary?
At Arcadis we are working along the Thames Estuary, which sees us collaborate in several projects in Kent and Essex. And looking along the Estuary further into London, we work closely with the London Borough of Bexley, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood housing estates and also closely with London City airport. We’re also working with the Environment Agency on the Thames 2100 project about the life of the river in 100 years’ time. Part of my role in Arcadis is to bring that away from several episodic projects into one coherent view. Being able to see that in the context of Creative Estuary is a privilege and, I hope, useful for all involved.
Why did you say “yes” to becoming one of our champions?
I became a Creative Estuary champion principally because I wanted to be able to relate Aracdis’ work – which is quite physical and tangible – to the wider project.
As an engineer, I always like to break things down to what an organisation does and what is it for. This can sometimes be really hard to articulate, not just externally, but also internally to those who work in Arcadis. I wanted to be able to say why we are doing this project. I wanted to be able to say it is because everything that is happening in the estuary is to an endgame; it is to regenerate and revitalise, to make it a really great place and a place will achieve a number of things which far transcends the bricks and mortar. It will create new communities, a culture, a sense of belonging and identity.
The draw to London has been a significant part of what, I think, has been the changing commercial focus of London and the South East. It has completely changed, and dramatically reduced, the volume of ancillary manufacturing and industry over the decades. We’ve also seen what were once vibrant places increasingly become dormitory communities. We’ve missed a coordinated vision around what the estuary could be. If you think about the carefully curated activity and planning that went into the likes of the London Docklands or Liverpool Riverside regeneration, and more recently Battersea, they demonstrate that things don’t happen by accident; they happen because people got very, very excited about them. It’s only now that we’ve seen this energy move to the estuary, with people refocusing on it and having the time, dedication and capability to make it work.
With big programmes, such as large regeneration programmes, there is always the challenge of how you keep the people at the back of the line interested and enthused today. They are multi-year, sometimes multi-decade, programmes which means it could take some time for people to see the outcomes and the benefits. This is where a multi-layered approach, like what we have seen with Battersea, comes in.
With substantive regeneration programmes – where the outcome is a long way off – starting with a drum beat of activity and seeding the small things begins to create a change in the community. Keeping people involved in the story building is a big opportunity for Creative Estuary, making it real and tangible. There are parts of the estuary that are not going to see benefits for some time, but they will start to see and feel that their community is improving with some of the events and installations curated through Creative Estuary. What can also be helpful is letting people know, and being clear early on, what a place is going to be famous for. This time it’s in the title!
Over 2020, as a result of the pandemic, the concept of “place” has changed. How are the creative industries adapting and/or how can the Creative Estuary help?
I don’t know that place has become any more important, but after the last couple of years one of the things that has become apparent is that when people talk about place, by and large they now have a much better understanding of what it is. When thinking of place, often people think about something physical; stuff you can touch. I have always passionately held the view that place is about society, community and economy. And it’s only then about physicality. We’ve got much, much better at understanding that when you create place you can’t just build; you’ve got to create a community and society and you’ve got to underwrite that with a functioning vibrant economy – it’s at that point you can give it a physical form such as buildings and infrastructure.
Our champions are drawn from across creative, education, development and finance industries. They reflect the inclusivity we want grow with the development. What are your views of Diversity and Inclusiveness in the creative industries and therefore the Creative Estuary project?
It’s absolutely essential when creating a functioning and welcoming place, to consider all perspectives – all points of view, all needs and aspirations, when shaping what a place might be or a community might look like or what it might focus on.
It is a rare and fantastic opportunity I get through my involvement with the Creative Estuary board. Frequently I feel horribly out of my comfort zone because we’re talking about a breadth of issues, challenges and considerations that blow my mind and I would never have considered that challenge or problem. It has made me think so much harder and so many other things that we work on; it’s been fascinating.
What is your favourite place on the Thames Estuary?
I work for a company that is headquartered in The Netherlands, so I travel back and forth between Schiphol and London City airports regularly. My favourite place on the Thames Estuary is the view of it you get of it from an aircraft on a clear day or a clear night. As you fly back into London and you look down and you see that continuous stretch from the wind farms just off the Essex and Kent coasts all the way to Tower Bridge and The Shard. You just think about the potential, the opportunity, the vibrancy and excitement at that view and it doesn’t matter what sort of a day I’ve had, I look at that and I just think that’s why I do this job.