One of Britain’s best known project managers prepares to retire after 30 years
When David Trench decided that his construction and consulting firm had come as far as it could alone, he and his partners promptly put it on the market. Last week, White Young Green (WYG) happily pocketed the firm that project managed the Millennium Dome and the British Library.
Trench is confident that any changes to the firm he founded will be minimal. “There are now 2000 people in WYG. They have to have certain rules or else it would be chaos. I don’t think we would go out now and employ someone on a large salary without asking the directors of WYG first, but that’s exactly what I would expect.
“I think we’ll continue with our own culture and stay in our niche market. WYG thought we were worth buying so it’s not going to set about destroying us.”
Trench is a man who has lived construction from his earliest days – he is the son of the late Sir Peter Trench, a former managing director of Bovis. However, one reason for the merger is that he is planning to stay on until September to project manage his firm’s integration into WYG, then retire. “I’m 64 now and it’s time to hang up the boots,” he says.
Bernard Ainsworth, who has worked with Trench many times over the past decade, most notably on the Dome, is unconvinced by this: “He’ll keep popping up. Taking it easy? Maybe. But David retiring? I’d put a question mark over that.”
Trench may prove Ainsworth wrong. He is determined to bow out, particularly after a turbulent 2005, in which he quit his project manager role at the Ascot redevelopment.
Delivery gets harder the older you get. It needs a lot of personal drive and push
“Delivery gets harder the older you get. It needs a lot of personal drive and push so when Howard Shiplee [now the London 2012 construction boss] joined Ascot doing the same job as me under a different title, it got complicated,” he says. “Being the older veteran and a bit tired, I left him to it.”
However, Trench is known for his refusal to quit. The Dome team were under constant pressure, but he never lost faith in the project. “I never had a moment of thinking we wouldn’t get it done on time,” he says.
Richard Coffey, who worked with Trench on the Dome says it was his colleague’s drive that kept the project on track. “There were times when people were saying ‘enough is enough’ and he would say ‘no, come on, we can do this,’ so we did.”
Despite public condemnation of the Dome, Trench is convinced it will still be a success. “It was bad timing. It was completed as the Blair honeymoon was ending and it was an easy football to kick. Everyone said it was a waste of money but the cost of the construction worked out at £300 a square metre. I defy anyone to build anything cheaper than that. The Dome’s five time the size of the Albert Hall. It will make a huge comeback.”
Trench admits he will miss his career, but says travelling is now his priority. “He could do with time to work on his golf,” adds Coffey, “as long as he gets rid of those tartan trousers.”