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Fri February 26 2021

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Knighthood for Westfield founder Frank Lowy

19 Jun 17 There was a somewhat lighter medal haul than usual for the construction industry in the 2017 Queen’s birthday honours list.

Westfield founder Frank Lowy
Westfield founder Frank Lowy

There is a knighthood for Australian shopping centre developer Frank Lowy, founder and chairman of Westfield Corporation.

Some 25 years after he led the TML contracting consortium that built the Channel Tunnel, there is a CBE for former Balfour Beatty boss Haro Bedelian, who at the age of 74 is recognised for services to engineering and international trade.

And another tunneller, Bechtel's Linda Miller, project manager of Crossrail’s Connaught Tunnel section, gets an OBE for services to engineering and to promoting gender equality. Until April 2017, she was project manager of Crossrail’s Connaught Tunnel section and featured in the BBC documentary, The £15bn Railway. She is now working for Bechtel on the Sydney Metro project.

Former HS2 chief executive Alison Munro is awarded a CBE for services to the rail industry. Also from HS2, Roger Hargreaves,  director in charge of hybrid bill delivery gets an OBE for services to transport.

Three construction industry educators were also recognised. MBEs are to be awarded to: Kevin Clancy, lately head of construction at York College (for services to further education); Neil May, senior research fellow at University College London and director of the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance (for services to sustainability and energy efficiency in buildings and communities); and to Richard Taylor, a former British Nuclear Fuels director and Health & Safety Executive non-executive director who is now a visiting professor in civil engineering at the University of Bristol.

There was recognition for architects, with MBEs for Asif Khan and Johan Muldoon and a CBE for Amanda Levete.

William Gowdy, director of engineering procurement at Northern Ireland Water gets an OBE for services to civil engineering and education.

Frank Lowy said he felt humbled by his knighthood, even though Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City are two of Europe’s largest urban shopping centres. It also has a £1bn retail development in Croydon planned.

“No individual alone can achieve the things we have in London,” he said. “Our first centre in London was opened on the eve of the global financial crisis in 2008 yet has thrived ever since.

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“Our second centre at Stratford City played a key role in the development of the site for the 2012 London Olympics and has been a catalyst for the rejuvenation of the whole of east London and now serves as a major community and job creation centre.

“We look forward to advancing our planning application for a new centre at Croydon and to further investment and job creation in the future.”

Frank Lowy was born in what is now Slovakia in 1930 and survived World War II with his mother in Budapest and evading capture by the Nazis. His father and many other family members died in concentration camps.

In 1946 he made his way to France where he boarded a refugee ship bound for Palestine. He was detained on arrival by British authorities and interned in a detention camp in Cyprus. He later made his way to Palestine, joined the Golani Brigade and fought in the 1948 War of Independence which led to the establishment of the state of Israel.

In 1952 Lowy left Israel for Australia and started a business delivering small goods. In 1953 he met fellow immigrant John Saunders. In 1960 they created Westfield Development Corporation and developed shopping centres throughout Australia before expanding to the United States in the 1970s, New Zealand in the mid-1990s and the United Kingdom in 2000.

“I had been trying to establish a business in the UK since the mid-1970s but for various reasons it wasn’t until 2000 that we finally made it,” he said. “That breakthrough was enormously satisfying, and I’m proud that we have been able to make such a powerful economic contribution, as well as support a number of very worthy philanthropic projects.”

 Mr Lowy said the genesis of his regard for the UK was listening to the BBC World Service as a young boy in war-torn Eastern Europe. He recalls that as a child he would huddle around a radio in a bunker, listening to the chimes of Big Ben in London introduce the latest war news. “It always gave us hope that help was on the way, and that the war would end in our favour,” he said. “From that time on I associated the British people with freedom and humanity and the sound of those chimes brings back those memories to this very day.

“On behalf of my colleagues at Westfield and my family, I want to place on record my appreciation for this honour and re-commit myself and our company to making a contribution to the economy and people of the UK.”

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