Michael Parkes is a retired surveyor and town planner who has been volunteering with VAC since 2011 on the Neighbourhood Planning Projects in Somers Town and Bloomsbury.
Here Michael talks to us about what volunteering for VAC has meant to him.
“I’m 70 next year. I’m a surveyor and a town planner. I’m retired, but I was a community planner for 25 or 30 years, self-employed, and for 15 of those years I was the community planner for two days a week for the King’s Cross Railways Lands Group.
My partner of 35 years died in January 2010 and I found myself living on my own for the first time in my life. Bereavement is a huge shock. One really needs something else to focus on.
Sometime in spring 2011 I received an email from VAC saying would I come to a daylong workshop that Camden Council and VAC were putting on about neighbourhood planning – could it be done, should it be done? Work is half my life so as my life at that point was in rather a distressed state it was a lifeline to put it bluntly, and to a certain extent, it still is. It forced me to get out of bed, get vertical, get dressed, mind engaged by 10 in the morning at the very latest. There was a real risk that that wouldn’t necessarily happen.
I strongly believe in helping people to help themselves, and that includes in town planning terms. So when a Bill comes along, and then an Act, that empowers local communities to prepare their own neighbourhood plan you can imagine I was amazed and delighted!! I love all voluntary organisations. I’m a natural community voluntary sector person. My parents were volunteers. Not only can the voluntary sector deliver services more appropriately and cheaply but the community sector can like wise.