Panellists

Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood is the Ramblers’ annual award celebrating those places which encourage people to go about their everyday lives on foot. Across the country people have been nominating their neighbourhoods, and as we approach the deadline (17 March) we’ve got a long list of great places to choose from. To help us narrow this down to a shortlist of ten, which will go to a public vote in the summer, we’ve brought together a panel of experts. Find out more about the panellists and what they’ll be looking for in the nominations below.

Vanessa Griffiths

Ramblers chief executive officer
Twitter: @RamblerVan

A head and shoulders portrait of a woman with long hair, outdoorsVanessa joined the Ramblers from National Trust Wales, where she was Assistant Director, responsible for leading the Trust’s North Wales team of staff and volunteers. With more than 10 years’ experience in the charity sector, Vanessa has also previously successfully led a Groundwork Trust - a social enterprise which works with disadvantaged individuals and communities to help them to improve their own lives through the creation of green spaces, green jobs and green energy. 

What are you looking for? 

“By making it easy for people to walk their everyday local journeys, we help them live more active, healthier lives. Not only that, we help tackle some of society’s biggest problems including growing levels of obesity, social isolation, congestion and air pollution.

The majority of us live in built up areas, and evidence shows that communities highly value green spaces and routes in their neighbourhood and hugely benefit from having regular contact with the natural environment. We are keen to hear about neighbourhoods that have improved or created new green routes, spaces or features, because we know that these make neighbourhoods more appealing for walking, whether it’s for leisure or as a means of getting from A to B.”

Susan Claris 

Associate Director, Arup
Twitter: @susanclaris ‏

A transport planner and anthropologist who has worked for Arup for more than twenty five years, Susan has a particular interest in how urban mobility creates more liveable communities and, specifically, the many benefits that arise from making cities more walkable. Susan led the report “Cities Alive: Shaping a walking world” to shine a light on the benefits of walkability and the actions that can be taken to improve it (www.arup.com/walkingcities). Susan is also a Trustee of Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking.

What are you looking for?

“For the past century, the car has dominated how we plan and grow our urban areas. We must now seize the opportunity to place people back at the heart of our cities and drive a human focused approach to the design of the built environment. A walkable neighbourhood is a better neighbourhood and the more we walk, the better our towns and cities will be in every respect. It will be great to see examples of how communities have improved their neighbourhoods and the benefits that come from even relatively small changes”

Maxwell A. Ayamba 

Projects co-ordinator, Sheffield Environmental Movement

A PhD Research Student in Black Studies at the University of Nottingham, Maxwell is an Environmental Journalist by profession and the Projects Co-ordinator at the Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM). Formerly a Portfolio Advisory Board Member of Imperial College's Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Explore Nature project and a committee member of the Regional Environment Protection Advisory Committee (REPAC) Environment Agency for Yorkshire & Humber.

Maxwell was also a Ramblers Board Member, and therefore has experience of the Ramblers’ unrelenting campaign to promote access for everyone irrespective of race, disability or background. 

What are you looking for? 

"My perspective of what constitutes a good walking neighbourhood is the liveability of its environment - quality green spaces, pleasant spaces where people irrespective of their ability and background can access and socialise. I consider these spaces as places where people feel a sense of belonging and pride. Spaces where walking trails are tree-lined, well designed and signposted to improve walkability, where residents feel comfortable and safe to walk to improve their health/wellbeing. Where residents are inspired and motivated to take up walking because of the pleasant places and views nested within the grey and green infrastructure."

Lucy Saunders 

Consultant in Public Health specialising in transport, public realm and planning
Twitter: @LE_Saunders

Head shot of Lucy Saunders looking at camera Lucy Saunders developed the Healthy Streets Approach which is the overarching framework for the Mayor of London’s 25 year Transport Strategy. Lucy is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health, she has worked across all areas of public health before specialising in transport and public realm. She has worked with towns, cities and villages to make them healthy welcoming places for all.

What are you looking for? 

“A good walking neighbourhood feels like a relaxing and safe place to be, it is not dominated by cars and everyone feels welcome. There are some great neighbourhoods that are well loved and bring joy to the people who spend time in them. These awards give us an opportunity to celebrate them.”

Anthony Slack 

Retired town planner, and Ramblers volunteer who nominated the 2018 Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood winner, Hastings. 

Anthony is a retired chief planning officer, a role through which he reviewed many development proposals. One criterion was how well a scheme integrated into the local area, and attractive pedestrian routes, linking to existing footpaths, were essential to creating a walking friendly neighbourhood.

What are you looking for? 

“I have lived for many years in a place where walking is more convenient and enjoyable than using a car. As a member of Ramblers, I wanted to promote the benefits of walking in Hastings Old Town so I submitted an entry in last year’s competition. My enthusiasm was shared by others which led to the Old Town being declared the winner.

There are many places which qualify for this award – perhaps you live in one or know several, so consider submitting an entry.”

Dr Ruth Hussey CB, OBE 

Independent Public Health Consultant and ex-Chief Medical Officer for Wales
Twitter: @husseyruth

Ruth retired as Chief Medical Officer for Wales in 2016. Born and brought up in north Wales, she initially trained as a GP but changed to pursue a career in Public Health - working in academia; as Director of Public Health in Liverpool; and then in strategic leadership posts in north west England for the NHS and Department of Health.

Ruth recently Chaired a Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales and is now a Commissioner on the Lancet/ LSE Commission on ‘The Future of the NHS’. She is Honorary President of the north Wales Ramblers Cymru.

What are you looking for? 

"Being active is an essential component of a healthy and happy life yet we have towns and cities that have prioritised cars over pedestrians. Neighbourhoods can be designed to make walking the ‘easy choice’ by building in routes that are safe, well lit, with accessible green spaces and free from pollution. The ‘Best Walking Neighbourhood Award’ is an opportunity to show what can be done and prompt others to put ‘walking first’."

Craig McLaren 

Chair of the Scottish National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum and Director of Scotland and Ireland in RTPI
Twitter: @RTPIScotland

Craig, currently the Institute’s Director of Scotland and Ireland, promotes the value of planning and planners through the media, research and initiatives such as Scotland’s Best Places, which was subsequently rolled out across the rest of the UK and Ireland.  Prior to this Craig set up and managed the Scottish Centre for Regeneration in Scottish Government and its housing and regeneration agency Communities Scotland, as its Director.

Between 1997 and 2003 he was Chief Executive of the Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum, the voice of the regeneration sector.  In 1994 Craig was appointed as the RTPI’s first Scottish Planning Policy Officer where he helped establish the RTPI Scotland office in Edinburgh and make sure it was seen as a key player in taking forward approaches to Scottish planning.

Prior to this Craig worked as a planner for the London Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Craig has previously sat on the RTPI Scottish Executive Committee and was Convenor in 2003. He was also a member of the RTPI Council.

Dan Raven-Ellison

Guerrilla Geographer
Twitter:@DanRavenEllison

Daniel Raven-Ellison is a guerrilla geographer, National Geographic Explorer and founder of the campaign to make London a National Park City. Daniel loves exploring the country by foot. He's walked across all of the UK's national parks and cities while wearing a mind-reading device, walked across London numerous times and ascended the height of Mount Everest by using staircases in hundreds of London buildings. As a result of work by Daniel and many others, the London National Park City is launching in July this year. Getting more people walking more of the time is one of its key aims.

What are you looking for? 

"For me, a good walking neighbourhood is one which is enjoyable to explore on foot. This means going beyond being accessible, safe and inclusive. I'm looking for neighbourhoods that go beyond these basic necessities that should be present in every neighbourhood. I'd like to see neighbourhoods that are interesting and inviting. Neighbourhoods with places to play, plants for people and wildlife and art or other provocations to enjoy. I'm excited to see some of the great things people are doing across the country and hope that the awards will encourage others to get involved with making their neighbourhoods great places to be."

Fiona Howie 

Chief executive, The Town and Country Planning Association
Twitter: @FionaEHowie

Fiona is the chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, a charity which uses the planning system to try to improve the well-being and opportunities of communities. Prior to the TCPA, Fiona ran the Campaign for National Parks for almost four years and worked for six years at Campaign to Protect Rural England, for the majority of that time as Head of Planning.

While much of her professional career has been focused on rural policy she has lived and worked in London for the majority of the last 20 years and has a keen interest in the quality of both urban and rural environments.

What are you looking for? 

"I am looking forward to being inspired by the nominations for the award. Too often I see poorly planned housing developments that are focused around private cars and where no thought has been given to how people will access local shops or how children will get to school. I hope we will see innovative and interesting approaches, which don’t necessarily require lots of investment but demonstrate that a bit of thought can make a real difference to communities."