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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Interview, Suzie Jackman

Suzie Jackman

GiGL’s Board of Directors are central to our work and our success. Their commitment and expertise helps guide GiGL and keeps us moving forward and developing. Directors are on the front line of biodiversity and open space work in the capital. They are GiGL service users and contribute to our data banks, as well as serving as ambassadors for GiGL.

Suzie Jackman is currently Environmental and Sustainability Manager, Rail and Underground, for Transport for London, as well as a GiGL Director.

SuzieJTown or countryside?

This is a difficult question. A green town would be my perfect answer, preferably by the sea.

Summer or winter?

Summer, but I do love snuggling under a blanket, listening to the wind and rain outside. I grew up by the sea, listening to the sound of weather fronts rattling in.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl, definitely!

Outdoors and indoors?

Definitely outdoors. I always feel happy when I can potter about my garden in the sun, or be by the sea.

Plants or animals?

I can’t choose. I like all of nature.

What species is closest to your heart and why?

I can’t really name just one species. I’ve met and seen lots of amazing animals on my travels. I swam with a curious sea lion in the Galapagos and watched frigate birds dance in the air around me. I’ve dived with mantra rays and watched them do somersaults out of the water in Thailand. A bull elephant thoroughly investigated our vehicle in Tanzania and I was entertained by black-faced vervet monkeys stealing someone’s lunch out of the locked picnic box in a car. And I’ve seen turtles nest outside my cabin in Mexico. But I have always wanted to see orangutans. I feel so much for them because of the destruction of their homes. It makes me more sad than I could explain here.

What is your favourite Greater London open space and why?

One Tree Hill, in Honor Oak. They say Queen Elizabeth I cavorted there in her youth and you get a brilliant view over London, but it still appears to be a secret. I also love Crystal Palace Park because I love watching my son’s face every time he sees the dinosaurs.

What is your first environmental memory?

Digging around my back garden in Wales. We had quite a large patch of garden that my dad never got around to turning into more vegetable patch. I would hunt and catch grass hoppers, dig up worms to make worm sandwiches for the birds. I obviously know better now! Or, I would find toads and slow worms under sheets of wood my dad kept there.

However, the event that caused me to choose an environmental degree was the Sea Empress oil disaster. In 1996, an oil tanker dumped 72,000 tons of crude oil on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. I came home to see all the beautiful beaches where I had played and made sand castles when I was growing up, covered in suffocating oil and drowning birds. Despite the clean-up, it seemed that more and more kept coming and coming. My heart was broken not only by the sight but because I realised how selfish we humans are.

You have been fantastic at offering support and guidance in developing lots of GiGL’s health and safety policies. How did you develop such useful skills?

I haven’t done this yet! But I will, together with Mandy and Valerie. I work in the Health, Safety and Environment Directorate in Transport for London (TfL) and over the course of my career, I have undertaken H&S training and have worked with some great H&S professionals on operations, maintenance and on some of London’s major projects. I have also developed, implemented and fully maintained an ISO 14001 management system through to recertification. This experience has given me knowledge that I hope will continue to help the GiGL team develop their management systems and the business.

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for London’s biodiversity, and how can GiGL help?

Austerity and population growth, hand-in-hand with the need for more housing. Oh, and climate change. Budget cuts and the need for more land mean open space, regardless of its biodiversity value and the ecosystem services it provides, is already being sold off and built on. I firmly believe that we need to begin monetising the benefits that the natural environment brings to us, as standard. That way, those making financial decisions have the complete risk picture. There is often a trade-off between nature and money. It seems to me that nature always loses and this means we lose. I am not saying “don’t build more houses”. Far from it. We desperately need more social and truly affordable homes in London and elsewhere. But our city must be sustainable and “liveable”.

Maintaining green infrastructure that cools and retains water, encourages walking and cycling and improves mental wellbeing; as well as helping to protect people and infrastructure; is the only way this can be achieved. We have to become cleverer at using open space, protecting and making use of the green corridors we already have, and integrating green infrastructure into new and old buildings. GiGL can be an enabler of this better way for London by maintaining the data that supports the case for green. GiGL can help policy makers see the connections we already have, what is protected already, and how and what could be enhanced, for example through the use of their habitat suitability maps. Their data can support planners and those seeking planning permission to get the balance right.

As well as being a Director of GiGL, I am fortunate to be able to make use of GiGL’s services at work through Transport for London’s SLA. GiGL’s services are phenomenal. When I first started working with GiGL, I didn’t really know what was possible to do with the data, or what was included in the SLA, other than the data exchange. But I had a load of ideas and loads of questions. Anything I asked, they did. In fact, I may have been one of the first people to ask to use their Habitat Suitability maps We overlaid London Underground land parcels onto the habitat suitability maps, so when work is carried out, e.g. embankment stabilisation, we have a good guide as to what we should reinstate the land to (within operational limits), improving biodiversity and connectivity or rarer habitats within London.

The only way to know what GiGL can do for you, or to know what is possible, is to ask them. And then tell all your friends about them.

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