John Dean: a personal thank you

Planning can be a challenging job. Most planners seek to make the world a better place by trying to reconcile conflicting positions, of developers, neighbours, councillors and Government. This can lead to less than optimal decisions.

The best planners, however- like John Dean was to the core- are fiercely confident in their beliefs and judgement. John led. John delivered. John set the agenda and expected his staff to make sure things happen, and they did. Mr Dean did instill not a little fear but much more respect in his staff, and together they achieved much in securing Leicester’s position as a thriving sustainable city which emerged from the manufacturing decline of the 1970’s well placed to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

The news last week of his passing was received with much feeling and sorrow in the office.

When I joined Leicester City Council as Head of Planning four years ago, I was very keen to meet him- he was a legend in the office, and he didn’t disappoint. I found him to be an effervescent fount of memories, anecdotes and very generous with giving advice/direction on all matters planning and Leicester. His memory was crystal clear, and he embellished stories of Leicester’s development characters and schemes over the last 50 odd years with sharp wit and a mischievous twist. He told me the truth about Smigielski’s departure (bit of a political cloud there) and many other reminiscences quite few of which are not shareable over social media.  I enjoyed a number of lunches with John and my predecessor as Head of Planning, Mike Richardson and ‘young’ Steve Brown Leicester’s Group Manager for Planning. All three of us were treated to John’s warmth and humour, with not a little spice in terms of the planning issues of the day- John kept a keen eye on what we were up to.

John Dean 2
L-R: Mike Richardson, Grant Butterworth and John Dean on the right. [Photo courtesy of ‘Young’ Steve Brown]
He was very proud of the profession, but angry about how planning was suffering from Government interventions which didn’t appreciate the subject’s complexity and purpose.  John knew how to ensure the development world properly respected key environmental and social- as well as economic- objectives. John marshalled letters to the Times from Past RTPI presidents taking the Government to task, and his grasp of the key policy issues of the day never dimmed.

From high status as Fellow and Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, to the initiator of numerous innovations in planning for the City, when John spoke, people listened.

John was proud of many diverse achievements: ground-breaking flood protection works designed with county council colleagues in the 1970’s in the absence of government direction or leadership. Under his stewardship the City won the Europa Nostra award; John appointed one of the first Access Officers, and was keenly aware of the need to make sure planning policy respected the diverse cultural needs of the City’s growing communities. John was a driving force behind the production of the first edition of the ‘Quality of Leicester’- a book which celebrated the heritage of the city in a way which made people look at the city afresh, and lifted the confidence and pride of citizens and officers alike.

There will be other places where John’s achievements will be recognised and celebrated, but it is a real shame that we will not get to hear John’s Leicester Urban Observatory City Series lecture outlining 70 Years since the enactment of the 1947 Planning Act which we were planning for this November.

The last time I saw John I passed him some notable but dusty Leicester planning documents for him to research for the lecture. John remembered every detail of them, from the Beaumont Leys Masterplan to the seminal joint Structure Plan adopted in the early 1970’s- hearing his lessons learnt would have been fascinating and enlightening.

John Dean 1

Such a shame. But I owe John thanks for one more thing.

In the final year of my Planning Degree at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, I was given a tough time by a fearsome external examiner who tested the logic and thinking behind my 80,000 word dissertation. Despite the grilling, in the end I got a good mark and avoided my ‘Desmond’ as a result.  I’d forgotten his name until we met almost thirty years later. John said he remembered me, and the dissertation- I think he was being charming and generous- but I never got chance to thank him for his ‘hard but fair’ assessment which set me on my way in my planning career.

Thank you John.

My sincere condolences go to Alwyne and all his family in coming to terms with such a great loss- truly one of a kind who will be very sadly missed indeed.

Grant Butterworth

Head of Planning, Leicester City Council

6th August 2018


New Event: 9th August 2018

Towards Disaster Resilient Cities

Disaster book

The next City Series event will take place on the 9th August 2018 and features a pair of talks on  the causes of disasters impacting on urban environments around the world, and detail ways in which risk can be reduced.

Leicester like many other benefits from beautiful and well used waterways. However the city is one of the UK’s more exposed urban locations in terms of flood risk. Much work is underway locally to safeguard the city’s future, and to build ecological as well as flood capacity into local resilience work.


The global threat will be set out by Dr Ksenia Chmutina is a Lecturer in Sustainable and Resilient Urbanism at the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Loughborough University, UK. Her research explores whether cities can be simultaneously sustainable and resilience under the pressures of urbanisation and climate change in the context of both natural hazards and human-induced threats. Ksenia has an extensive experience of conducting research in developing countries, in particular Nepal, India, China, Indonesia, and the Caribbean. She is a co-author (with Dr Lee Bosher) of a recently published book “Disaster Risk Reduction for the Built Environment’ (2017, Wiley Blackwell).

Jonathan Vann will provide a more localised perspective. He is a Chartered Geographer, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Managing Director of Riverscape Environmental Consultants, having previously worked as a Senior Flood Risk Management Advisor for the Environment Agency. His talk will provide an insight into recent infrastructure investment which has reduced the risk of flooding, as well as the future direction of flood risk management in the local area. The wider benefits of blue-green infrastructure will be explored in relation to biodiversity enhancement, public access and riverside regeneration.

The first talk will start at 5:30pm on Thursday 9th August and will take place at Central Baptist Church. Places can be booked:

New Event: 14th June 2018

Capture Cameo

Creative Places, Co-Working and Community

What makes for a creative place in arts, media and cultural production? What are the different ways in which people make creative places more inclusive, collaborative and communitarian?

Four speakers will reflect on the nature of creative place-making in a diverse range of cities, towns and international contexts:

Fabrizio Montanari (UNIMORE, Italy),

Geoff Litherland (Co-director of Haarlem Artspace, Wirksworth),

Paula Serafini (CAMEo, Leicester)

& Prof Loretta Lees (Leicester Urban Observatory / University of Leicester).

Thursday 14th June at 5:30pm / LCB Depot, 31 Rutland Street.  Book at:

UPDATE: Lutyens event: limited places still available

City Series: “From country house to Viceroys house: A journey with Sir Edwin Lutyens”

Capture lutyens

Martin Lutyens, Chairman of The Lutyens Trust, will explain how Sir Edwin came to be the most celebrated British architect of his day. He will describe how Lutyens’ style matured and evolved, from the early houses which made his name, through grander houses, public buildings and memorials, leading onto the building, over almost 20 years, of New Delhi. He will describe the influence of Sir Edwin’s earlier work on the planning of New Delhi and the design of Government House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan); and how working in India influenced contemporaneous commissions in Britain and continental Europe.

The event will take place on Wednesday 27th June at 6:00pm and be hosted at: Victorian Art Gallery at New Walk Museum.

Book at:

(The talk is sponsored by the HLF/Leicester City Council funded ‘Story of Parks’ project.)

Prior to the talk, there will be a limited number of spaces on a free walk around Lutyens’ work in Victoria Park, including the Arch of Remembrance, and a brief stroll via other local landmarks on New Walk.

Please get in touch to learn more and reserve a space:  / 0116 4544935

New City Series event- Civilised Streets

Image of the Ride Leicester / Leicester City Council 2017 Schools Ride

The first free event of 2018 will be a special evening of talks and debate on Thursday 12th April 2018 and will focus on ‘Civilised Streets’. The event is part of the larger Transforming Cities 2018 Conference, which will take place in Leicester on the 12th and 13th April. There will be talks from local, national and international speakers on the challenge of making streets more liveable, through better design and management. The evening will consist of:

>    Chair’s introduction: Polly Billington, Director, UK 100  – Key city challenges: air quality for health and wellbeing in the public realm

>    Jon Orcutt, Director of Communications & Advocacy, Transit Centre, New York City – A international take on civilised streets – and how to achieve them

>    Cllr Adam Clarke, Deputy City Mayor, Leicester – Leicester’s vision for civilised streets

>    Brian Deegan, Design Engineer, Urban Movement – Delivering Leicester’s draft streetscape

A facilitated Q+A will follow.

The event will start at 5:15pm in the Vijay Patel Building at De Montfort University.

In addition there are a number of walks and rides associated with the Conference which can also be booked via the links below:

Strategic Planning is back…..

A major consultation is underway to shape the future of Leicester and Leicestershire to 2050.

People are being asked to have their say on a plan setting out how Leicester and Leicestershire will grow in the future.


A draft Strategic Growth Plan is being developed by a partnership formed by Leicester City and Leicestershire County councils, the seven local borough and district authorities and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

It puts forward proposals for the new housing and transport improvements that would be needed to attract jobs and investment to Leicester and Leicestershire from now until 2050.


The final version of the plan will provide strategic direction and help shape the Local Plans that the city, borough and district councils are preparing or reviewing.

It will also be used to support bids for Government funding to deliver the infrastructure needed to support growth.

Now, people are invited to comment on the plan by taking part in a county-wide consultation, which runs from 11 January until 5 April 2018.

The plan estimates that Leicester and Leicestershire needs 96,580 new homes and 367-423 hectares of employment land from 2011-2031. Some of these homes have already been built or have planning permission.


Beyond 2031, the plan identifies the need for a further 90,500 dwellings and additional employment land, which is why further land needs to be unlocked. Local Plans will deal with the detailed allocation of which sites will be brought forward.


Draft proposals put forward in the Strategic Growth Plan include major infrastructure improvements on which new growth is dependent. These include a new link road – the A46 Expressway – to the south and east of Leicester, running from the M69 and the M1 to the A46 north of the city.

The A5 and A42 would also be upgraded to expressway status, supporting growth in these areas. Rail improvements are also proposed.


These road and rail improvements would require significant Government investment and would relieve congestion pressures along the M1 and more widely across the Midlands. It would also potentially unlock land for the required housing and employment.

Key areas for potential growth are the city of Leicester and the corridor of land around the proposed new road. Secondary areas for growth are identified in the north and the south of the county – there would be a ‘northern gateway’ close to East Midlands Airport, and a ‘southern gateway’, close to Magna Park.

Growth is also proposed for Melton and Lutterworth, where it would support transport improvements and relieve congestion in the towns. New housing would be built closer to where people work, to minimise congestion from commuters.

See the Partners’ website  for full details of the Draft Plan and go here for the online questionnaire to give your views.

The consultation also sets out an extensive new evidence base here which includes a number of reports.

The city has already grown through its boundary, and the council is planning in its local plan to go as far as it can to balance the predicted housing, employment and open space demands for a sustainable future for the city which allows growth but protects the environmental capacity of Leicester.

It has however already formally declared that it will not be able to accommodate its future growth needs without assistance from partner authorities.

Whilst the SGP involves difficult and controversial matters, it is in the interests of all parties to have a robust and forward looking plan which will set a strategic framework for the development of future local plans. The Plan will allow partners to take back control and position the authorities to secure the necessary infrastructure funding to support this critical growth agenda.






New City Series event: Edwin Lutyens Architecture of Remembrance

The next free talk will be delivered by Tim Skelton on Thursday 30th November 2017 and will focus on ‘Edwin Lutyens and The Great War’. Tim has written on a wide range of subjects, including travel and history, and is the author of ‘Lutyens and the Great War’. He is a member of the Lutyens Trust. The talk is sponsored by the HLF/Leicester City Council funded ‘Story of Parks’ project.


The work of the eminent architect Sir Edwin Lutyens is central to the way in which we now remember those who have given their lives in the service of their country. His Cenotaph forms the centrepiece of Remembrance Sunday and the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval is the largest British war memorial in the world.

Less well known is the work that he did for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the design of cemeteries on the Western Front and the 50 memorials that he designed at home and abroad including at Victoria Park in Leicester, which was the largest of all. As well as inspiring architecture, the commissioning of the memorials tells interesting stories about British communities as they sought the best way to mark the loss that they had suffered.

The event will start at 5:15pm in the Victoria Room at New Walk Museum.