Eco campaigner Steve Hughes is the founder of the Chester Supertrees project. He ran 7 marathons on 7 days to fundraise for the project
1.How are you ?
Im good thank you. Our 4 month old boy is keeping us busy but I’m very much looking forward to getting some extended time with him over the summer.
2.You’ve made incredible progress transforming the subway, whats next?
World domination. I joke, not my style. We have a number of different projects ongoing both around Chester as well as in the rest of the borough. We’re looking to transform a particularly underused, unloved roundabout in Ellesmere Port as well as in the process of doing a feasibility study on creating a huge 100 acre nature reserve on the South side of Chester. Its all really exciting from a Forest City Projects point of view at the moment.
3. Developing the Supertrees involved your own fundraising and a massive effort from the community- who else played a big role ?
The council themselves were a massive help too. Some of the short-staffed-ness was arguably the main causes for delays but there were also an awful lot of good-willed people there too. The key is to get them all talking to one another and all pulling in the same direction. Easier said than done. I know you mentioned the community of people in the question but their input and value can’t be overstated. This is why I am a huge proponent of community led design and it shapes everything that we as forest City projects do. Including the murals that have just been installed.
4. Tell us about working with the artists that have produced the new murals
Withing Forest City Project we have 4 directors, myself; Jon Mason who is landscape architect by trade; Melanie Hughes who is our community engager and Sam Ryley who looks after all things artistic. I mention this because he project managed the installation of the Murals. As I understand it there was some ups and downs some people harder to work with than others but that’s the way in any project but the key element was that all the artists were happy and enthusiastic to engage with the community and now all 3 have elements incorporated in the final designs that are up on the walls.
5. What would you sing on karaoke night ?
Firstly I should say, I cannot sing. My partner says “There isn’t many things in life you don’t excel at but singing is definitely one of them” This doesn’t stop me singing round the house though.
I would probably murder The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.
6. Favourite place to visit in the borough ?
Chester. I love our City and I love trying to keep improving it in anyway I can but more specifically the Countess park is right up there for me. Only to be improved by the soon to arrive Wetlands, which I cannot wait to see that incidentally. Either there or Metronome Jazz bar on Thursday night. Horses for courses.
7. Have the supertrees met your expectations? Some have commented about the lack of plant growth so far
Indeed. I wouldn’t say that we were as blown away with the SuperTrees themselves as we are the rest of the Gardens. That’s not to say that we aren’t happy with them we certainly are but there is a few things in play here.
Firstly, I would say they haven’t even had our third summer yet and Nature takes time, they are improving year on year and will be better by the end of this summer than they have ever been. The Clematis and the climbing roses are doing fantastically well. We also weren’t helped at all by the 3 storms we had back to back in Feb that ripped off a lot of the established growth. Symptoms of the climate emergency like these storms are something that we will have to adapt to, and we are, planting a number of new plants this spring to try and get some all year round foliage.
8.What do you think Chester could do better as a city ?
If I had to pick one thing, I would say that the roof of the Northgate carpark needs to not be a Car Park. In 2018 I went to the then project manager (no longer managing the project – some would say thankfully – not me of course) with a proposal and concepts for a roof top garden. It incorporated a Bar/ Café/ Restaurant, events space, Incredible Edible as well as many other green elements connecting people to Nature and the unbelievable views of the Clywydian mountains. Quality roof top gardens are of international renowned and this could easily be Chester’s main attraction and the current plan is to blow all this in exchange for a place to dump your gass-guzzler.
9. Who are your heroes in life ?
Recently Barrack Obama, I am just fascinated by him as a person. How he manages to achieve what he has while continuing to be nice, likable guy thats able to make incredibly tough decisions and almost always get it right. Incredible
10. If you could time travel where/when would you go ?
Difficult one. I adore being here, right now, in the moment. It doesn’t get better than this does it?
11. You are also chair of Chester Sustainability Forum, what does the role involve?
The sustainability forum is a group of groups who in the past used to get together to discuss best practise and inform members of projects that each individual organisation had going on at the time. Over the last year I have tried to make it more action focussed and run campaigns as a group and that philosophy seems to be working quite well. It has some other minors things that come along with the role but that’s the essence.
12. The forum recently debated the Hynet North West project- do you support the plans?
Yes and no. The HyNet project is such a huge beast that has many different elements including hydrogen pipelines, Carbon Capture and storage, Hydrogen storage, Hydrogen for heating, Hydrogen for the industry immediately in the Ellesmere port area and Im sure others that I haven’t been made fully aware of.
It’s a scale between its undeniable ability to decarbonise industry, the complete unsuitability of Hydrogen in heating homes and everything in-between. The ultimate thing is that there are an awful lot of intricacies involved and it definitely isn’t an absolute yes or no. The Sustainability Forum will be publishing its position in full in the coming weeks and that will answer this question much better.
13.Which person living or dead would you take for an independent coffee or drink ?
The first name that jumped to mind was Elon Musk so I would go for him. A really odd and incredible person.
14. What is your dream vision of a future Chester
In a sentence, a City that is in harmony with nature and everything that entails.
Green spaces; Clean air; fresh water; filled with life that isn’t just humans 😊
15. Name a famous person you have met
How famous are we talking? I’ve met the guy who runs the @ShitChester accounts he’s pretty cool.
I had a chat with Ranulph Fiennes at a book signing here in Chester. He inspired me to do the 7 marathons in 7 days something I wont forget for a while.
16. Do we need more hotels ?
Swift and Bug hotels certainly.
17.Chester has embraced green issues in recent years, what else needs to happen ?
All of them. We need all the solutions to happen not just one, or some of them. This is why I love doing what I do with the sustainability Forum because it allows be to support initiatives in transport, energy, land-use, housing.
Any small step any of us can make in the right direction is a step that needs to be made. Never get down hearted about the scale of influence that you can have because they are all really important.
18. What do you do to relax
I used to run more than I do currently something Im looking forward to getting back into.
19.If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
Im a simple man really, walking and playing with the family in the woods is my happy place so I would probably go for that.
20. Russ Abbot, Daniel Craig etc, which local celebrity would you like to see in statue form?
I actually went to school with Daniel Craig’s younger brother he was an odd chap. I don’t know actually… ***Googles – Chester Celebrities***
Didn’t realise Paula Radcliffe was from Tarporley – Can I go for her?