Sue Roland

As a very keen rider, Sue used to ride all around this area and knew it well. When she saw new houses being built on the former Borocourt Hospital site, she thought it would be a lovely place to live. So, eight years ago, after 26 years in Tokers Green, she and her husband, John, moved into the area. She hasn’t ridden seriously since her competition horse retired but, as her house adjoins woodland, she has ready access for walking – her other favourite activity. With her very large German Shepherd dog, Teddy, in tow she now walks the whole area: Teddy, she says, is her substitute horse.

Formerly, Sue was an international corporate lawyer in the nuclear and pharmaceutical industries. They were high-pressure jobs, with a lot of responsibility and a lot of travel but, at the time, she absolutely loved it. She worked for an American multi-national but when it was bought by a Swiss company, rather than relocate (Sue felt that the different culture was not for her), she decided to spend more time improving her dressage. Nevertheless, she continued working as a consultant for a further 10 years until, 15 years ago, she found herself going through papers at 03.00 one morning. This triggered the question ‘Why am I doing this?’. She felt that it had all become too much, she was on a treadmill and it was finally time to retire. She has never looked back.

Five years ago, Simon Crouch, the then Chairman of the Parish Council, persuaded her to join the council. Sue has always had the philosophy that everyone should contribute to society so this suited her very well. She had previously been a councillor in Kidmore End and was already on the board of the Wyfold Estate, so her knowledge and experience was warmly welcomed. Three years ago, she took on the role of Chair of the Planning Committee. The workload is often over a day a week and is fairly relentless but very interesting. The Parish Council as a whole is very collegial and she finds working alongside her fellow councillors on the Planning Committee very rewarding. They are all very committed and supportive although, she says, they occasionally disagree on planning matters especially modern architecture! The role of the Parish Council is to make recommendations to the District Council which then makes a decision. We need, and cannot avoid, new affordable housing but the Planning Committee is very focussed on preserving our rural environment within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Planning Committee try to ensure that new houses and house extensions do not have an adverse impact on the characteristics of the village and the AONB.

Planning meetings can be quite lively especially if large numbers of the public attend: she says that sometimes she needs to be quite bossy to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak!

What makes her quite angry though, is that some developers exploit planning loopholes and blatantly abuse the system by continuing to submit further applications after refusals. She can’t bear it when developers attempt to ride roughshod over our AONB by submitting applications for housing developments without any regard for local needs and the limitations of our local roads and infrastructure.

As with all parish councils, they are all volunteers who do their best to act in the interests of the whole community but can’t please everyone.

Nationally, there are many changes in the planning system making it very difficult for parish councillors to keep abreast. For example, as part of a consultation process the government will send out very detailed papers and questionnaires which parish councillors, as non-technical volunteers, can struggle with. In the case of the Third Reading Bridge, she thinks that we are incredibly lucky to have David Bartholomew and claims he is her superhero!

Having friends who compete, she is still involved with her first love, horses, but she now indulges her other favourite pastime – cooking. She loves baking cakes and was in her element when she baked cakes for the opening ceremony of the refurbished Sports Pavilion. An avid fan of Bake Off, she admits that she enjoys Bake Off Crème de la Crème even more.

As retired people, living in this beautiful part of the Chilterns, she and John haven’t really been impacted by Covid. They tend to lead quietish lives and don’t eat out much. They had some long-distance travel plans but these are now on hold. However, she is happy having holidays in the UK taking Teddy along with them.

Rita Hadgkiss