Take a walk on the wild side with Urban Designer Kenji Shermer, from East Devon’s Economy and Development service
I joined East Devon District Council to work as Urban Designer for Cranbrook - a brand new town being developed in East Devon - after being in Blackpool for six years. Before that I worked in Birmingham, so East Devon is quite a change.
My work is incredibly interesting. At the moment I am working with the Public Health team and NHS England on the Healthy New Town project. Of the ten projects across the UK, Cranbrook is the only one that is representative of the way most houses get built, so what we achieve here could benefit millions of people in the future.
Cranbrook has a young population so we have the chance to make sure the time people spend living in Cranbrook helps them stay healthy as they age. We are bringing together research teams in Exeter and London to find out how the built environment affects people’s health and happiness. So we can design out the causes of ill health wherever possible and make Cranbrook a place where everyone can lead a fulfilling life.
Cranbrook divides opinion, just like any new development. The developers tend to take all the flack, but they are just as interested in doing a good job as we are and are open to radical ideas as long as there’s good reasons for them. Designers always have to remember that however amazing we think our ideas are we are seldom the ones paying to get them built.
People who live in Cranbrook really enjoy it and the community survey bears that out. There is a huge amount of enterprise going on there and it makes it all the more important to get the town centre going, so part of my role is to work out how. The sausage rolls from the @143 café are amazing, by the way, and make any day good.
Working and living in East Devon is great. This part of the world is very lucky and it still amazes me that if I want, I can finish work at the end of the day and be bobbing around on a kayak an hour later. Having come from Blackpool I have struggled to adjust to the lack of anywhere to buy a bacon, black pudding, egg, hash-brown, sausage, mushroom, tomato and brown sauce sandwich. I have learnt to cope but it has ruined my Friday mornings. A positive is that Sidmouth is not on the Stag and Hen circuit and I get to feed the crow who waits outside my office window every morning. He likes muesli but gets a bit over-excited if you give him granola. It’s probably the sugar.