Interview: Gwyn Owen at Essex County Council
Tue 27th January 2015, 3:02 pm
As project leader for housing at one of the UK's largest county authorities, Gwyn Owen at Essex County Council has a challenge on his hands to help get the homes that are needed built. In an exclusive interview, he talks to Sitematch about his role at the council
Which projects are you most proud of being involved in?
I am most proud of being involved with the projects I am working on right now. I am project lead for the housing and public sector land project, a highly innovative scheme, working in Essex to identify and bring forward surplus public sector assets and land for housing. I am also involved in the development of Essex County Council’s Housing Programme, being led by Mark Carroll, who is the director of housing strategy, and who will also be attending Sitematch. I feel we have a real opportunity to deliver some significant benefits to the people of Essex.
What makes developers good partners?
We are looking for developers who understand our requirements and who can be flexible in order to meet the needs of individual localities and sites. We are also looking for those who have a strong track record and can evidence their ability to deliver on time and on budget.
What three developments or enhancements would most benefit Essex?
In Essex we have a population which is ageing faster than the national average. As a result, we require an increase of over 2,500 extra care units in the county, which would help meet the needs of residents and help reduce demand on public services. A further initiative which would have enormous benefits would be to address specialist housing requirements which exist across the county, including, but not limited to learning difficulties and mental health. Finally, a key enhancement would be to improve infrastructure to further increase economic growth.
If you could change one thing about working in Essex, what would it be?
I would procure a developer framework specific to housing to provide an additional route to help us utilise surplus public sector assets and increase housing supply.
What things have surprised you about working in the county?
I have been surprised by the county's scale and diversity. Essex has one of the UK's largest local authorities, and with a population of nearly 1.4 million, it has some of the most affluent areas of the country and some of the most deprived. Essex adjoins London and has many large towns and a city, and yet remains predominantly rural, especially in the north. The sheer scale of opportunity is quite incredible. Partner organisations are really focused on driving forward economic growth and prosperity and it is a really exciting time to be working here.
Which book, film, piece of music or sporting occasion has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
The Six Nations rugby championship has had the biggest influence on my life. It inspired me to take up rugby and the few weeks the competition is on is probably my favourite part of the year. It is an event where many of my family and friends come together to watch rugby. Of course, it is even better when Wales win!