Influential council director becomes new SWIP chair

Paula Hewitt, a lifelong advocate of cooperation on environmental issues, has taken over as the new chair of the South West Infrastructure Partnership.

Paula, who is Deputy Chief Executive, Lead Director for Economic and Community Infrastructure & Director of Commissioning at Somerset County Council, is a highly respected and influential figure in local government, having been past president of ADEPT, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT). She was 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.

“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,” said Paula.

“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.”

Paula’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.

Paula took over the voluntary role of SWIP Chair from consultant civil engineer, Peter Kydd in February 2022 at the launch of the South West Vision and Beyond Brunel podcast onboard Brunel’s SS Great Britain in Bristol (pictured).

Joining SWIP as a contributor is free and open to all infrastructure professionals and stakeholders in South West England.