December 11 2013 Latest news:
By CHRIS HILL, Rural affairs correspondent
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
A former University of East Anglia student has been handed a pivotal conservation role in the East of England after becoming the regional director for the National Trust.
Ben Cowell, who was previously in charge of the charity’s policy and external affairs work, will lead a team of more than 500 staff and 5,000 volunteers.
He studied as an undergraduate at the UEA, where he specialised in landscape archaeology at the Centre of East Anglian Studies. He now lives near Saffron Walden in Essex.
“I am delighted to be taking up this role, which is easily the best job in the National Trust,” said Mr Cowell. “I have loved the people and landscapes of the East of England for as long as I can remember.”
Mr Cowell also worked as a civil servant at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in London before joining the National Trust’s external affairs team in 2008.
Last year he led the charity’s campaign to put countryside concerns at the forefront of the debate over reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework.
He said: “We don’t ‘campaign’ that often but the proposed changes to planning policy represented one of the biggest challenges to the shape of our country since the 1930s.
“We felt that it hadn’t been thought out fully and disagreed that unrestricted growth was the answer to a slow economy.”
The National Trust looks after places, wildlife, collections, community spaces and heritage. In the East, its properties include the coastal nature reserve at Blakeney in north Norfolk, and important stately homes such as Blickling Hall.
Mr Cowell said he is keen to emphasise the trust’s role in conserving these “special places” for the people who care about them – while also representing those voices in national debates.
“We face a number of challenges over the coming years,” he said. “Reform of farm subsidies, marine planning, off- and on-shore wind turbines, infrastructure planning and the effects of climate change to name but a few. The National Trust will be at the heart of these debates and ensure that communities’ voices are heard where it matters.”
Mr Cowell replaces former regional director Richard Powell, who left the trust in December.
Anthea Case, chairman of the National Trust’s East of England regional advisory board said: “I’m thrilled that Ben has taken up the reins of the National Trust here in the East.
“He demonstrates great enthusiasm for the special places that we look after whether they are mansions, parkland, coast or countryside. His passion is backed up by years of experience in the sector and he will help develop the many ways in which the trust supports people, nature and the economy of the East.”