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Alison Nimmo, CBE, the woman behind the masterplan and design for the London 2012 Olympic venues and Sheffield's regeneration, came to Sheffield Hallam University this week to share her experiences in an 'in conversation' event.

In Tuesday evening's talk, entitled The Urban Renaissance: Reflections on Manchester and Sheffield, and London 2012, Alison spoke about her key role in the planning, design and development of many of the key Olympic and Paralympic venues, including the award winning velodrome.  

She also spoke about the challenge of redeveloping a huge post-industrial area of east London into a sustainable new piece of city fit for the 21st century, that aims to host the best Olympic and Paralympic  Games ever.  Alison said: "The first big challenge was to remediate the polluted soil, clean up 6 kilometres of rivers and create a brand new 100 hectare park, reintroducing ecology and creating a whole new infrastructure for the Games and legacy."

A key figure in the significant regeneration of Manchester in the late 1990s and Sheffield from 2000, Alison then talked fondly of her time in the city as head of Sheffield One - the Urban Regeneration Company tasked with redeveloping the city centre.  The vision for this was, in her words, to "breathe new life into the city's fantastic civic spaces and buildings".

On returning to the city, Alison said: "I feel very proud to have played a role… Sheffield's a very special city,  when I come back and visit now it feels like a very different place compared to the city I came to in 2000.  But cities are very organic things, they change and develop over time, and the job of regenerating is never finished."

Alison Nimmo

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Alison is currently director of design and regeneration for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), but will begin a new role at the start of 2012, when she becomes the first female Chief Executive of The Crown Estate.  On leaving her current role, she said: "Working on London 2012 has been one of the best jobs in the business.  Having been involved since the bid it's a tough project to leave. But with the ‘Big Build’ now pretty much complete - on time and on budget - it’s time to move on to new challenges”.

This 'in conversation' event was part of Sheffield Hallam's Forgotten Spaces project, an architectural ideas competition run in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Yorkshire.  The competition encouraged architects, designers and artists to come up with innovative ideas that find new uses for the region's forgotten spaces. The project is sponsored by British Land, owners of Meadowhall, Creative Sheffield, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry and developers and engineers Buro Happold.

For press information: contact Ally Mogg in the University’s press office on 0114 225 2811 or email