In my capacity as MP for East Antrim and also in my previous role as the Environment Minster in the Northern Ireland Assembly I met His Majesty on a number of occasions when he was the Prince of Wales.
He took a huge interest in the village of Glenarm which is in my constituency and I met with him to discuss plans for developing this beautiful village.
He was so impressed with the location and especially with Glenarm Castle that he committed £60,000 from the Prince’s Trust.
Unfortunately, despite the work which was carried out as a result of this funding and the plans that were drawn up to redevelop the village there has been little progress so far and on 3 occasions I met him afterwards he always remembered the occasion and asked about progress and expressed his disappointment as well that the exciting plans for the village had not been implemented.
On a second occasion when I was Environment Minister in Northern Ireland, I was invited to visit the model village Poundbury.
One of the main features of the village was the road safety issue using the housing design and layout to slow traffic so that cars could not travel at much more than about 15 miles per hour and it was therefore much safer for pedestrians.
As we walked round the village with Prince Charles, he was explaining the thoughts behind the design and the objectives which he had hoped to achieve.
We became engrossed in a discussion and found ourselves separated by about 100 yards from the rest of the party as he pointed out features and explained the ideas behind them.
He then looked at me and asked did I consider that this kind of design could be used for development in Northern Ireland.
I laughed and said that I did not think the roads service engineers in Northern Ireland would find the ideas attractive because they would not fit into the tick box book of road standards which we had and pointed out that blind spots, sightlines, separation of pedestrians and cars standards were all violated in the design of the village which we had walked through.
He smiled and said oh then you must get your officials to come to the courses which we hold for public officials to look at radical design.
I said I would try but I did not know how successful I would be.
No officials were present during this conversation so I know that no notes could have been taken of it. The officials were at least 100 yards away and it was a one-to-one conversation.
To my amazement nearly a year later when I met him on another occasion out of the blue, he asked me, did those officials of yours ever come to the course on street design.
I was dumbfounded because I could not imagine how he had remembered the conversation he had had with menearly a year before. There was no record of it, he obviously remembered the conversation and given the thousands of people he must have spoken to between the time I visited Poundbury and the second conversation I had with him in Northern Ireland, it just amazed me that he remembered the detail of our last encounter.
I think it is a huge tribute to him that he is genuinely interested in the people he meets, his encounters are not just shallow, this is a job to be done today and let us move on. He is genuinely interested in the projects which he lends his support to, he takes his role seriously and I think he will be a great figurehead for the nation.
When we had the roundtable discussion with some of the public from Glenarm Government officials and Council officials, I noted that he was a listener and his interest went beyond the one meeting as was evident by the numbers of times he asked me about progress on the site.
Charming, humorous, interested and passionate I think he will make a great King.