John Kenyon

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JOHN Stanley Kenyon, director of planning for Leeds City Council from 1990 to 1995, has died at the age of 80 after a short illness.

Mr Kenyon successfully steered Leeds through a challenging period in the late 1980s as it transformed from an industrial city to become the regional capital of Yorkshire. He was an incisive strategic thinker, who retained a common sense approach to planning and development.

Better known to everyone as Stan, he was a Dalesman by birth and up-bringing. Born in Halton West in Craven District and raised in Thornton-in-Craven, the son of a tenant farmer, he attended Ermysted’s Grammar School in Skipton before winning a place at Wadham College, Oxford, where he read Geography, graduating in 1956.

He studied town planning at Manchester University and started his career with Lancashire County Council, before moving to Leeds in 1961 uhere he worked for 34 years.

He was soon leading the strategic planning Unit within the city engineers department, under Charles Geoffrey Thirlwall and Donald Mellor, masterminding the first review of the City Development Plan.

He was promoted under the local government reorganisation of 1974, which created the Leeds Metropolitan District, and worked closely with its first director, John Finney.

In 1990, Mr Kenyon was promoted to director following the retirement of John Finney. He steered a large and dynamic planning department through a period of challenging change, as the city region emerged successfully into the post-industrial world. He managed to balance the drive for economic development with the desire to conserve the best of the city’s rich heritage. He was particularly involved in a range of urban regeneration schemes, major city centre developments and the preparation of the Leeds Unitary Development Plan.

In retirement, Mr Kenyon was co-author of the standard text on the development plan system, and continued to produce a planning bulletin for Walton & Co. a firm of specialist planning lawyers.

He had a strong commitment to the traditional ideals of public service and was scrupulously apolitical in public life. Respected and held in high regard by politicians of all parties and colleagues, he also mentored many young planners throughout their careers. He also enthusiastically promoted the need for bringing more women into the planning profession long before it became fashionable.

He was an enthusiastic amateur psephologist, whose election predictions were keenly sought by friends and politicians alike. He was fascinated by the outcome of the recent European elections, and despite his illness was actively reflecting on their likely impact on next year’s general election. Stan was also a keen amateur meteorologist and throughout his life kept records of the weather.

Mr Kenyon remained a Dalesman at heart. He was a keen fell walker and accomplished bird watcher with an encyclopaedic knowledge of species and had a particular love and affection for Upper Wharfedale. He was an enthusiastic member of the RSPB and supported a range of organisations and charities including the Yorkshire Wildlife and Norfolk Wildlife Trusts. Stan also produced a regular column on birds for the North Leeds Life newsletter. He regularly worshipped at St Chad’s, Far Headingley, where he was a Sidesman and helped promote the biodiversity of the church grounds.

He was a great conversationalist and enjoyed a pint of real ale, good food and good company. Although a bachelor, he had a wide range and network of friends all of whom hold him in great affection and which ensured that he had an active and varied social life, he was an integral part of the extended families of his close friends.

He was a devoted uncle to Susan and Mark, and caring great uncle to their children. He was also a generous and loyal friend, known for his gentle sincerity and wry sense of humour. He will be much missed by family, friends and former colleagues alike.

The funeral is at 11am on Wednesday, June 11, at St Chad’s Church, Headingley.