Life might have been quite different for Sue Illman, President Elect of the LI, had she not decided on a career change back in 1980

President Elect Sue Illman
President Elect Sue Illman

After working for five years as an accountant, she quit to enrol on a landscape architecture course based in Cheltenham.

“I desperately wanted to do something more creative,” remembers Illman, who will take over as President in July 2012, after receiving 59.9 per cent of the recent vote. “My background in accountancy has proved very useful both in business and in managing contracts – but I’m glad I don’t have to do it full-time.”

After graduating, Illman went on to found Illman Young with her business partner, Yvonne Young, in 1987. Based in Cheltenham, the practice specialises in SuDS, and the green agenda remains a priority of Illman’s.

So, too, does education. As part of the LI’s Education Committee, she played a key role in devising the Pathway to Chartership system whereby landscape architects gain Chartership.

Turning her sights to the future, Illman says: “Being a landscape architect is still a brilliant career, even in challenging economic conditions such as these. The diversity of the job is unparalleled: I’ve never known a profession in which you’re continually faced with new technology, information and techniques. It’s been a tough time for the industry, but I believe we’re now starting to come out the other side of it.”

Illman is similarly positive about Defra’s recent White Paper: “It’s long overdue, much of it is in line with LI policy, however, it remains to be seen what will happen when it is implemented.”

She is, however, slightly disappointed in the paper’s heavy reliance on the voluntary sector: “It sits with the government’s localism agenda. But how much is really going to be delivered in the places we most need it?”

When Illman begins her Presidency next July, she says she will foster a positive and open-minded attitude from the Board and Advisory Council.  “I hope that the people who are new on the Board and Council, as well as those who have remained in post, come forward in the spirit of having robust and open discussions. We may have different priorities, but it’s our profession and we must work together to best represent our membership.”

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