People News

Our People: Mark Cope.

16/08/2019

Making your environment a priority.

Mark Cope has recently joined our Bristol office as an Associate in environmental planning.

Prior to joining Hoare Lea, he spent over a decade coordinating Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) on projects ranging from trunk road improvements, to town centre redevelopments, flood alleviation and coastal defence schemes.

I chose a career in environmental planning because…

…I’m passionate about environmental and sustainability issues. My particular specialism is the multidisciplinary coordination of complex EIAs on large infrastructure development projects. At this scale it is essential to ensure that the need for development is proportionate to the impact it will have on people and the environment. I relish the opportunity that my work gives me to make a real difference, for the benefit of developers, end-users and existing local communities alike.

I came to work at Hoare Lea…

…because it is an innovative consultancy that’s going places! As commercial development projects become increasingly more complex and the requirements of environmental planning become ever more stringent, it’s more important than ever that EIA remains proportionate – innovation will be key in this regard.

I joined the firm to work more closely with the people at Hoare Lea who specialise in the human wellbeing aspects of EIA. Ultimately, I want to help develop innovative solutions to environmental and sustainability issues that will make a real difference to people’s lives.

One of the most challenging projects I’ve been involved in…

…was the East Rhyl Coastal Defence Scheme. It was a challenging, but thoroughly rewarding project to work on. Rhyl was affected by severe storm events in 2013, resulting in the overtopping of a low area in the coastal defences. The flooding affected 130 residential properties, and more than 400 people were evacuated from their homes. Following this, a £30 million scheme was proposed to improve the resilience of the coastal defences and help mitigate the future challenges of climate change. My role was to coordinate the EIA and prepare the environmental statement report. The sensitive coastal location meant that the proposals were subject to EIA as part of planning and marine licencing consent applications. It was not entirely possible to mitigate all negative impacts of the development works due to the close proximity of residential properties and need for night-time working due to tidal patterns. However, it was recognised that the residential properties most affected were also those to receive the most benefit from flood defence. A proportionate approach to the EIA was undertaken, recognising the wider benefits of the scheme in the context of the previous severe flooding and disruption. Community engagement was a key factor in the success of the project, which has been very well received. Planning and marine licence consent were recently granted, and construction is due to commence in late 2020.

What excites me most about the industry today…

…is the ability to innovate and drive forward positive changes. Things have changed a lot since the days when there was almost a box-ticking approach to gaining EIA consent. It is now possible to make a positive contribution through EIAs, by focusing on increasingly innovative solutions to address impacts on people and the environment. In particular the use of digital technology in this area is helping us identify new ways of delivering on the original aims of the Aarhus Convention to uphold ‘the right of everyone to participate in environmental decision-making’.

Outside of work…

…I like to explore caves! Perhaps not as much as I would like now that I have two wonderful children, but whenever possible. What really excites me is the challenge of going to places where perhaps only a small number of people have set foot before. I have been caving for over a decade now, but a key highlight was when, in 2014, I co-discovered a new cave system underneath the Treak Cliff Cavern show cave in Derbyshire.  Being the first person to visit a new discovered place on Earth, and by convention getting to name it, is increasingly rare in the 21st century, and it was a huge privilege.