Chartered Town Planner

Born in Edinburgh in 1945 and raised in Edinburgh and Manchester, with an early interest in what makes places, inspired by family and by the work of Thomas Telford, James Gowans, Patrick Geddes, Elsie Inglis, John Betjeman and Ian Nairn.  Trained at Newcastle University, a chartered town planner from 1970, at the leading edge of the planning system in Scotland since 1975.

Formed and chaired Scotland’s e-Planning Group in 2001, guiding it through its first 24 meetings to 2005.  A proactive group of central and local government planners and IT specialists with links to the software suppliers and geographic and academic interests, the group aimed to co-ordinate and accelerate progress by example.   It drew up a compact of objectives and targets for central and local government endorsed by the planning Minister, secured a unified approach by Scotland’s Heads of Planning, connected with e-planning elsewhere, audited progress and prepared joint funding proposals.

Started professional life in the late nineteen sixties with Kent County Council, a well-staffed organisation with high standards and traditions laid down by Edinburgh-born JWR Adams and his followers RG Clarke and Harry Deakin.  First duty was policy input to all planning applications in the three Medway towns of Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham which then had 400,000 population and intense development pressures.  Work followed on a personal survey of all Kent’s villages and the designation of village conservation areas across Kent in the wake of the new Civic Amenities Act, then leading a small team on the Folkestone town study and the investigation of future Channel Tunnel impacts, rail freight terminals, ferries and lorry parks.  Becoming a chartered town planner in 1970, and a principal officer soon afterwards, took responsibility for preparing the county structure plan in west and mid Kent.  Speedy progress and lucid explanation of complex policy issues to councillors and communities were hallmarks, with exhibitions and public meetings large and small.

After 8 years in Kent transferred to the Scottish Office in 1975, drawing up Scotland’s first structure and local planning policy and advice, and considering the first regional reports. In 1978 devised the well-known Planning Bulletin still published today.  Served as territorial planner for parts of south and west Scotland including Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and the Scottish New Towns, and was seconded to the Glasgow Rail Impact Study in 1980.  Pivotal role through the eighties and early nineties in advising on the Strathclyde Structure Plan at the Scottish Office with a confident straightforward approach which was picked up in the technical press.  The greenfield and brownfield distinction recognised by planners in Strathclyde in those days is now familiar across Britain.

Responsible for drafting the key national Planning Policy on the planning system in 1994, for its revision twice since then (now SPP 1), and for Planning Advice Notes on development control, new housing in the landscape, community councils, local plans and structure plans.  Explored the shortcomings and merits of planning service delivery on-the-ground with developers, community groups, councillors and local government staff, leading intensive Audits of the planning service in Glasgow City, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, North Ayrshire and Clackmannanshire, each in a positive spirit of appreciative inquiry.

Devised the annual Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning in 1997 and ran them till 2002, developing their successful formula as a major Ministerial event with independent judges, entries from all over Scotland and a large internet traffic in the detailed reports of all the nominations. This helped to bring forward a new approach to the Scottish Executive’s planning pages in 2002 and a Ministerial video for the Executive’s internet youth page.

Supervised the national consultation on Land Use Planning under a Scottish Parliament and devised and wrote the easy read Guide to Planning which was awarded the Plain English Campaign’s Crystal Mark.  Jointly devised and conducted the consultation on Getting Involved in Planning from preliminary talks with stakeholders to defining proposals in a consultation paper, easy-read and questionnaire, and supervising parallel analysis and research projects and stakeholder seminars.  Presented to senior Scottish Executive managers as a working example in Better Policymaking 2002.  In tandem with recent work on e-planning, drew up detailed proposals and procedures for Scotland’s new City Region Plans and drafted planning advice on village design.

Formerly a regular speaker for the Scottish Executive on national planning and service issues, a contributor to UWE’s Glasgow development control seminars, and a part-time lecturer in planning at Edinburgh College of Art.  An empowering style helped to develop many of the younger talents in the Executive’s planning divisions, and build bridges with a range of outside individuals and organisations.

Specified and guided research commissioned for the Scottish Office and Scottish Executive consultants' work on energy conservation, quality in development control, complaints handling, public access to information, development planning, costs in the planning service, public involvement in planning, and model planning policies.

Since leaving the Scottish Executive in 2005, contracted to analyse responses received on green belt policy and suggest guidance for new professionals for The Improvement Service.  Made a fact finding trip to Japan with Dundee’s Geddes Institute in 2006 supported by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, giving an address at Waseda University, Tokyo and receiving generous attention from public officials and community groups in Tokyo, Yokohama, Odawara, and Hakone. Contributed to the McVean Centenary conference in Tokyo 2012.   From 2006 became a visiting teaching fellow in Town & Regional Planning at the University of Dundee.  Led a series of seminars across Scotland in culture change in planning for the profession.  From its foundation in 2008 a member of the grants panel for the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund. Prepared the touring exhibition Scotland’s Planning Legacy launched at the Scottish Parliament in 2010.  Became a Member of Council, The Saltire Society from 2007 and the Society’s Vice-convener from 2012

Takes an interest in Scotland’s relationships between people, place and business.  Promotes the can-do approach which has been at the heart of the best of Scottish planning since the pioneer days of Patrick Geddes and Thomas Adams.  Made links with the US, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Australia and New Zealand on cultural issues and positive development awareness.  Outside the Scottish Executive, helped steer the first years of the Scottish Ecological Design Association and organise its conferences on sustainable development for planning, for business and local authorities.  Once on the organising committee of the South East branch of the Regional Studies Association, and for many years of the Environment Housing  & Town Planning Committee of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.  Chaired the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Scottish Executive in 2008 and currently heads the Scottish Planning Education Forum and the Saltire Society’s Planning and Environment committee. Devised the Saltire Society’s 75th anniversary exhibition in 2011.   A member of the Scottish Government’s Rural Land Use Advisory Group and of the Edinburgh Urban Design Panel.  Received a Scotland UnLtd award in 2005 to help form Penicuik Community Development Trust as a social enterprise, which he currently chairs. Takes a leading role in the Lost Garden of Penicuik Restoration Project , the Bank Mill papermaking Project and in efforts to restore the Great Polish Map of Scotland at Eddleston.  A regular event organiser and past convener of Penicuik's Community Arts Association, a former member of Penicuik High School Board, formerly a local community councillor and onetime president of Duddingston Primary School Parents Association.  Married to potter Jane Kelly, with four grown up children; in 2000 brought together a three-day international party for a hundred people of all ages sharing our common Scots West Indian descent. Later researched and attended a similar major family event in Kaikoura NZ in 2012 during placemaking visits to Tokyo, Christchurch, Napier and Sydney.

George Watsons Prizewinner in Geography and History

Bachelor of Arts (Land Use Studies): special study: Planning the urban fringe.

For more recent work and perspectives