I met Prince Charles recently in Wales. Joined by my colleague, journalist-historian Hywel Williams, the two of us were invited to meet the Prince of Wales at Coed Darcy, where a small group of guests had been invited to see how Neath Port Talbot council, BP, the Welsh assembly and developers St Modwen are trying to turn one of Europe's biggest brownfield sites into a healthy, flourishing community.
Just as we are what we eat, I believe we are what we are surrounded by. The art of place-making was all but dead, as was the skill of creating genuine communities rather than rather soulless housing estates, until I determined to revive these timeless skills over 25 years ago. Although it seems misunderstood, my concern for design is part of a much wider concern about the impact places have on the people who live or work in or around them. My concern is for the built environment as a whole and how that environment affects the way people feel and live.
All of my efforts over the past forty years have been concerned essentially with one central principle - the well-being of the individual. Not the isolated individual. My emphasis has constantly been on the individual within community. People do not thrive without the support of a community so, in my view, if the hope is that people prosper, find happiness and feel that all important sense of satisfaction and belonging, then we have to maintain the fabric of community and not let it become threadbare.
I must say, I have struggled at times to find as many ways as possible to help those young people who do not have the best start in life to overcome the barriers they face and to mine that fathomless human capacity for innovation. Many young people lack confidence. They often suffer low self-esteem and I find that these are the biggest blocks of all. That is why so much of my work in this area has been dedicated to giving young people, especially those excluded by their circumstances from the mainstream, a strong sense of self-worth and a confidence in their ability so that they, rather than others, can put their lives on track.
I have long been deeply concerned about the effect our modern, highly industrialised approach is having on nature's capacity to sustain life on Earth. There is a growing set of alarming problems which, if not addressed with real urgency, will severely affect nature's capacity to keep her life support systems running and thus guarantee the well-being of billions of people around the world.