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On an Environmental Mission

Chartered Surveyor Nicholas Woolley manages assets for companies, institutions and landowners from his historic home near Bury St Edmunds. He also holds passionate views about fighting climate change as Sarah Chambers discovered.

Nicholas Woolley doesn’t mince his words when describing today’s homebuilders. “Our construction industry is run by dinosaurs who are imperilling our planet, conning our homebuyers and are only interested in achieving their maximum short-term profit. The sooner they follow dinosaurs to extinction, the better it will be for all of us” he said.

It is a sentiment many environmentalists might share, but not exactly the kind of unequivocal comment that on the face of it you would expect from someone whose job is to get the most out of landowners’ assets.

Mr Woolley, 60, runs his own land and project management company, Woolley & Company, looking after the assets of an array of corporate companies and individual landowners, and has worked for a wide variety of clients including Zurich Assurance, DEFRA, the Countryside Agency, now known as Natural England, The East of England Development Agency and Waitrose.

He set up the company, based at his home in Freckenham, in 1995 after a series of high-powered roles, including 12 years as Chief Land Agent to the Prudential Corporation, where he was responsible for 85,000 acres of land and eventually administered £5 billion property division. His role is to get clients the best value he can for their assets, and he sees no contradiction in that and his passionately held views on combating climate change and looking after the environment.

He is aware that the world is changing, and sees changing with it, by countering the effects of climate change, as a no-brainer: “I believe it’s a win-win situation,” he said.

“I think our job is to see there are other ways which may not only be much more stressful in being environmentally-friendly, but will also achieve planning consent in a short time frame, which is important, and indeed would achieve a planning consent other buildings would not have a hope of achieving. It must be remembered that buildings to be eco-friendly don’t have to look extraordinary”.

It is an approach grounded in pragmatism, and he points out that land and asset owners who fail to improve their eco-efficiency may find themselves with redundant buildings with no tenants in a few years’ time unless they do something about it.

Mr. Woolley is a past chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Country Land and Business Association and was also on the national CLA steering group for their major research paper: Climate Change and Rural Economy, and it is an area in which he has become deeply involved.

“In our future planning and development, we simply cannot afford to rely on an oil based economy,” he argues.

“The technology is now with us to use non-fossil alternatives and I believe that, taking a hard-nosed financial view, I must advise my clients to move in this direction.”

Architects and Surveyors | August 2007

August 5th, 2008
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