The serene office of H:B:A Environment, nestled amongst thousands of hectares of Shropshire countryside, is a sanctuary for Director Kay Hawkins, who made the move to Sansaw Business Park just a few months ago.
Kay is a Landscape Architect and Ecologist with over 30 years’ experience in the design, assessment and management of environmental and development projects in the rural, urban and marine environments throughout the UK.
Caring about the environment has always been at the top of Kay’s agenda and a geography trip to Machynlleth Alternative Technology Centre during her A Levels triggered her interest in renewable energy and environmental design.
“I found it fascinating and went back the following summer as a volunteer. It showed me how our lifestyle choices can impact on the environment. I encouraged my family to change our way of eating and I knew from then on that I wanted to go into an environmental career.”
Graduating with a degree in Ecology from the University of Lancaster in 1982, Kay wanted an opportunity to put both her ecological scientific knowledge and her interest in design into practice and found that Landscape Architecture did just that.
So she took a postgraduate degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Manchester and moved to Dorset to work in a landscape design practice.
“It’s funny how careers evolve. Whilst I focussed on landscape design and contract management for the first four years of my career in Dorset, this was the boom years of the mid to late 1980s and we were designing the landscapes for large scale developments such as residential marinas, airports, road schemes, hydro-electric schemes and out of town shopping centres. These projects also had the potential to result in quite significant effects on the environment, so I began undertaking environmental impact assessments even before these became mandatory in the UK”.
“After travelling and working in America and Australia for a year, I was keen to work for a multi-disciplinary environmental company, so I came back to Shropshire to join Aspinwall & Company. This gave me the opportunity to work alongside and learn from experts in a range of environmental professions, and I did a lot of environmental impact assessments and public inquiries, particularly for renewable energy schemes which is the area I went on to specialise in.”
In 2000 she co-founded E4environment, a landscape and environmental consultancy that specialised in renewable energy and waste issues. However, after 13 very busy years, she left to set up H:B:A Environment in order to have more family time and the flexibility to pursue other interests. This has enabled her to fulfil two other ambitions – to train as a planning inspector and to pass on her accumulated knowledge to the next generation – alongside her consultancy work she is also a visiting lecturer at Birmingham City University and a part-time tutor at the University of Gloucestershire.
The variety of her day-to-day is what spurs her on.
“There’s no typical day for me, I could be out in the field taking photographs or at a meeting, in the office writing evidence or preparing lectures, at a public inquiry being cross-examined by lawyers or in a classroom of students having my knowledge equally put to the test. No two days are the same and, even after 30 years, I still learn something new every day.”
“Having my own office and working flexible hours does mean that I have the space and time for hobbies again. I love braiding and have recently acquired a weaving loom. I also enjoy growing food to eat and have had more time to spend on our allotment this summer.”
H:B:A Environment was based in The Pump House in Shrewsbury for several years but, after completing a part-time contract in Anglesey, Kay missed the countryside and decided to move the office out of town to Sansaw Business Park.
“This, of course, isn’t a nine-to-five job and I could have an office at home but I definitely need the separation for my work-life balance. I live this side of Shrewsbury so the commute is nice and short, and it means I can visit our horse during my lunch break. It’s perfect, really.”