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Local government director becomes chair of South West Infrastructure Partnership

10 March 2023

Paula Hewitt, lifelong advocate for the environment, will lead a regional body dedicated to promoting cross-sector collaboration. 

Local government director becomes chair of South West Infrastructure Partnership
Paula Hewitt brings decades of experience in local government to her new role as SWIP chair.

Paula Hewitt, a lifelong advocate of cooperation on environmental issues, has taken the reins of the South West Infrastructure Partnership, known as SWIP.

The regional body, founded by ICE South West in 2017, is dedicated to promoting cross-sector collaboration among infrastructure leaders and professionals.

Its new chair is a highly respected and influential figure in local government.

Currently, Hewitt is deputy chief executive, lead director for economic and community infrastructure, and director of commissioning at Somerset County Council.

Previously, she's been past president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT).

She was also heavily involved in coordinating the local authority response to the devastating Somerset winter floods of 2014-15 and led the work to minimise the effect of future flooding through the Somerset Rivers Authority.

‘Breaking down silos has never been more important’

Hewitt highlighted the importance of working together to face up to the challenges of climate change.

She said: “SWIP exists to break down silos and barriers among infrastructure sectors in the South West, and this work has never been more important as the region faces up to the impacts of climate change and the huge task of reducing carbon emissions.

“Only by working together can we meet these huge challenges and ensure the South West has the infrastructure it needs to improve people’s lives and bring prosperity and resilience while also protecting nature and the environment.

“I hope to encourage more infrastructure professionals, stakeholders, and leaders to join SWIP and contribute to our cross-sector journey to net zero.”

2050 vision

Hewitt’s appointment comes as SWIP publishes its first major report in partnership with ICE South West.

South West Vision 2050 examines what the region needs to do to achieve an effective, forward-facing infrastructure system.

The new report draws on conversations recorded for a new podcast series, Beyond Brunel, focusing on the South West’s biggest infrastructure themes and challenges.

Hewitt took over the voluntary role of SWIP chair from consultant civil engineer and ICE fellow, Peter Kydd, in February 2022 at the launch of the South West Vision.

The even took place onboard Brunel’s SS Great Britain in Bristol (pictured below).

peter kydd and paula hewitt
Peter Kydd, former SWIP chair, handed over the role to Paula Hewitt on board the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Joining SWIP as a contributor is free and open to all ICE members and infrastructure professionals who live or work in south-west England.

  • Lidia Pearce, communications lead at ICE South West