"I know that making a difference is a long and hard process, but we architects are very good at having a vision and going through the many small steps needed to see it through."
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong to British parents, moved to UK to attend university in 1980 . and I have made this country my home and raised my family here, having moved to Cambridge to work as an architect after graduation.
I have had my own architectural practice for thirty years, working on social housing, older buildings and private homes. I have always been interested in the connection between architecture, cities and food, and in 2013 I studied for a Masters degree in Food Policy at City University in London.
My grandmother was interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Hong Kong for four years with her three children, including my mum who was four when they were rounded up. During that time they lived in one room shared with another family.
Growing up I heard many stories of that time, when they had no medicine, were cut off from most of the outside world . and had very little food. I heard how that time brought the family together and how the Christmases in the camp were so special as each year they realised they were still together and alive, part of a community that was working together in dreadful circumstances.
Understanding what they went through, and how it was family, friends and community that got them through has been important to me throughout my life, and has driven me to do all I can to support others.
What got you into politics?
I have always been a very active member of my local community – I helped in my children’s’ nursery, taught architecture in a local secondary school, and through my work have supported a number of charities and community initiatives.
I was one of the people who helped developed the brief for the K1 co-housing scheme on Orchard Park, which has now been built as Marmalade Lane. I worked with individuals and families, with land owners and developers, with planners and financiers to provide excellent low energy, quality family homes in a setting that enhances biodiversity, provides community gardens and opportunities for the youngest and oldest, the frail or disadvantaged – and a place where they would eat the food grown in the community gardens and appreciate the physical fabric of the buildings and spaces.
Projects like that made me realise that it was possible to make a difference, and in 2015 I was inspired to join the Labour Party and take part in local campaigns. I had more time to put back into the community after my daughters left home, and I could no longer bear to see the effects of the Tory/Lib Dem austerity that was being inflicted on our communities.
How did you become a councillor?
After I joined the Labour Party in 2015, I became very active in party campaigns, before standing as a candidate for Trumpington Ward for the County Council elections in 2017. I lost. So, I stood again for the City Council in 2018 and thanks to a great campaign team I won a seat that had not returned a Labour councillor for over seventy years – by four votes.
What motivates you?
I believe in social justice, equality and opportunities for all, and I am passionate about the need for sustainable communities and an effective food policy.
As Executive Councillor for Planning and Open Spaces, I am currently leading for the City Council on work to develop the new Local Plan for Greater Cambridge. Leading on this with my strong background in architecture and research experience in Food Policy means I have the skills to help deliver on delivering net zero carbon emissions, protecting and enhancing our natural environment, and developing truly sustainable communities that provide places for the health and wellbeing of all people in Greater Cambridge.
What are you most proud of as a councillor?
The guided busway goes through Trumpington, with buses passing very close to pedestrians and cyclists. As soon as I was elected, I began to work with residents and local businesses to improve the safety of this route. Some progress was made, but after the tragic death of Steve Moir I knew we needed to do much more. We were told that nothing could be done to further improve the safety of the busway, but after a petition to the County Council and meetings with the bus companies we got speed monitoring and the speed reduced to 30mph on the most crowded section.
I know that making a difference is a long and hard process, but we architects are very good at having a vision and going through the many small steps needed to see it through.