Growing the volunteer base, tackling complex planning applications and collaborating with a myriad of grassroots organisations are key priorities for the Highgate Society's new chair.

Andrew Sulston has taken over the leadership of the conservation group from William Britain following an annual general meeting on Tuesday (June 25).

Ahead of his appointment he sat down with the Ham&High to spell out his goals and said there will be "no huge shift" from what members are already doing, which he hopes to preserve.

The Highgate Society was founded in 1966 by local people who had successfully fought Government plans to route heavy traffic through the heart of the village, which straddles the boroughs of Camden, Haringey and Islington.

Andrew got involved 10 years ago when he wanted help to look after the red phone boxes that were routinely being vandalised with graffiti. That led to him getting involved helping set up some community projects including gardening and fundraising for defibrillators.

"William Britain has been a great chair," he said. "The range of events we have going on for social events, activities for public benefit, these are fantastic.

"We have to preserve and encourage do all we can to capitalise on those."

The society has 1,300 members and 170 active volunteers who muck in and collaborate with other groups to host the Pond Square Carols, the Fair in the Square, lunch time concerts, Halloween and a host of other activities.

"We really need to convert as many members into active volunteers as we can. We're doing quite well but the volunteers are the life blood of all the events and activities we run throughout the year," he said.

He is also open to new ideas members have and a new ways of doing things. 

"Just because we've done something one way so far doesn't mean it always has to be done the same way.

"I don't think it's a huge shift, it's a continued openness, to everybody bringing their enthusiasms, wanting to spend time doing things for Highgate. 

"I'm thinking of my own pathway to Highgate Society."

Major things the society is getting involved with using members' expertise includes the ongoing fire safety issues in Townsend Yard, a 36-storey tower planned in Archway, with objections led by the Better Archway Forum. 

They are communicating with Camden Council about how to use a former bus stop space, with Highgate School about their redevelopment plans, speeding traffic on Highgate West Hill and getting behind biodiversity campaigns to create a wildlife corridor in the area.

He added: "To be the chair for the next three years is a great opportunity to make sure Highgate Society continues to support the range of really positive events and activities for Highgate, always with the aim to make Highgate a better place to live and work."