“AS A community we’re really proactive. We don’t need a speculative land development company to come in and try and foist ideas onto us which actually aren’t really worth having.”

Those are the words of community campaigner and newly-elected independent councillor for Whitchurch, Overton and Laverstoke, Lucie Follett Maitland.

The 45-year-old, who is originally from St Alban’s in Hertfordshire, transitioned into local politics, standing for the first time this year, largely to continue to work of the Whitchurch Conservation Group, which she founded in October 2020.

The Advertiser caught up with Lucie to find a bit about her route to the role, and what she hopes to achieve over her year-long term.

The mother-of-two says her experience is “so different from anything anyone else has done”, with strong commercial routes.

After graduating from Durham with a degree in Classics, she entered the investment banking sector, before becoming her own boss as a successful businesswoman.

Lucie is one of two masterminds behind the award-winning Lottie toy company, which “creates toys that defy stereotypes”, now sold in 30 countries across the world.

The company aimed to bring an “anti-barbie” to the market, which celebrates “children being children”, and Lucie says their claim to fame is sending a stargazer doll to space with astronaut Tim Peake.

“It was very much capturing the spirit of the times, letting children be children, and let children achieve their aspirations,” she explained.

From there, Lucie moved into property rental business, and last year launched the Whitchurch Conservation Group.

“I love being outside. So one of the big things I have been doing during lockdown, like a lot of people, is spending more time outside. So I’ve been establishing a wildflower meadow and sowing lots of different wildflower seeds. I’ve set up an orchard, and I should be getting some beehives in the next couple of weeks.

“Where we live, it’s one of the historic mills in Whitchurch and there's lots of lovely countryside surrounding us, so that’s one of the things that I’ve been working on over the past year.”

The group was initially set up to get public engagement for the Basingstoke and Deane issues and options consultation, but now has more 800 members.

Lucie explained: “It’s all about protecting and nurturing green spaces in and around Whitchurch. But also looking to promote Whitchurch as a socially and economically vibrant town with a strong rural and heritage identity.

“Earlier this year it became clear to me that we do have some very serious issues facing Whitchurch and because I’ve always been a very proactive person and taken responsibility for moving things on in life, I thought this is my opportunity, and that was my sole motivation for wanting to get involved, be really hands-on and really push things forward.”

The group is keen to protect Whitchurch’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) from development.

“It is nationally protected landscape. There is no reason or justification for it to be developed on. And we are now facing a situation where we have speculative property companies trying to effectively greenwash proposals that aren’t really effective, but they’re trying to, on a whim, on a roll of a dice, to develop these plans. And that is our intention, to make very clear that we wish for those to be brought out of the picture, and not worth considering.”

Lucie says she accepts that “proportionate” housing development is necessary, but claims Whitchurch has “taken its fai share”, and that the community is already working on measures to address climate change, which will outperform developers’ “greenwashing” attempts.

“As a community, we are taking climate change seriously. And we have been working with Basingstoke and Deane Council to create an application for the community renewal fund, based entirely on that issue. So we are as a community really proactive in that area anyway, we don’t need a speculative land development company come in and try and foist ideas onto us which actually aren’t really worth having,” she said.

Speaking about the year ahead more broadly, Lucie says she is already adapting to the day-to-day responsibilities of a councillor, adding: “My email inbox has already been full on the issue of bins, so I suspect bins are going to feature quite heavily! So going from one end of the spectrum of dealing with high-level planning issues, to the realities of everyday life.”

She continued: “I want to make sure I’ve got good communication with some individuals and groups in society, who perhaps don’t get the kind of recognition or have the kind of voice that perhaps they ought to, people in sheltered housing and social housing.”

Although she is formerly a member of the Conservative party, and sits with the Basingstoke and Deane Independent Group, Lucie says there is freedom in her independent status and doesn’t view it as a barrier in getting things done.

“I think it means I can be true to my own opinions and beliefs. I don’t have a political whip, so I’m not beholden to an overarching political opinion,” she said.

“I’ve spent most of my adult working life working for myself, so that sense of doing things myself without a corporate structure, I’m fairly used to that.”