Jim Amos

Socially committed town planner
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The Independent Online

Francis John Clarke Amos, town planner, architect and sociologist: born London 10 September 1924; planning officer, London County Council 1953-58; Regional Planning Officer, Ministry of Housing and Local Government 1958-59, 1962-63; Adviser to Imperial Ethiopian Government 1959-62; Divisional Planning Officer, Liverpool Corporation 1962-66, Chief Planning Officer 1966-74; President, Royal Town Planning Institute 1971-72; CBE 1972; Chief Executive, Birmingham City Council 1973-77; Senior Fellow, Birmingham University 1977-91, Honorary Senior Fellow 1991-2003; married 1956 Geraldine Sutton (one son, one daughter, and one daughter deceased); died Salisbury 20 May 2003.

Jim Amos made an outstanding contribution to town and country planning in Britain and abroad in a distinguished professional career which lasted for over half a century. He had an exceptional knowledge and experience of planning due to the appointments he held and the wide variety of tasks he undertook in 39 countries. He was a man of deep convictions, and had the highest standards in all that he did.

Throughout all his work and particularly for the planning profession he was always seeking ways of improving standards of competence. He believed passionately that planners should strive to improve people's quality of life and that causes of disadvantage and deprivation should be confronted; these matters were as important as physical ones. This was the message he carried throughout his work and impressed on his colleagues. His rich and international career was marked by lasting friendships on many continents.

Francis John Clarke Amos was born in London in 1924 and was educated at Dulwich College. He joined the army in 1943 and was commissioned, rising to the rank of Captain. He saw service in the Indian Army and at GHQ Delhi and on the North West Frontier.

Following demobilisation, "Jim" Amos studied architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic where he was awarded a Diploma in Architecture in 1951, becoming a member of the RIBA in 1954. He studied town planning at the School of Planning and Research for Regional Development in London where many of the post-war leaders of the planning profession were trained.

He became greatly influenced by the inspirational teaching of E.E.A. Rowse and his concept of "the composite mind," which argued that interactions between a broad spectrum of professions was the only effective way of producing optimum planning solutions. Rowse also encouraged his students to broaden their horizons by working overseas. Amos was awarded a Diploma in Planning in 1953, and in 1955 he was elected a Member of the Town Planning Institute. He also took an external BSc degree in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 1956, which he found to be valuable in understanding the cultures of the various communities with whom he worked in later life.

He embarked on his professional career at Harlow New Town where he worked on housing and industrial sites from 1951 to 1953 and then joined the London County Council working on the reconstruction of the war-damaged inner London suburbs. In 1958 he joined the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and was Regional Planning Officer first for the North-east region and then the North-west region.

In 1959 he was seconded to become the General Technical Adviser to the Ethiopian government and special adviser to the Emperor. He prepared a plan for the decentralisation of the Addis Ababa region including the rehabilitation of the urban unemployed. He organised the first aerial survey and population census for the region and studies of social organisation and land ownership.

Back in Britain he became a Divisional Planning Officer to Liverpool City Council in 1962 and then Chief Planning Officer from 1966 to 1973. He was concerned about the social conditions in the city and pioneered a new type of flexible planning process combining social and economic considerations. This involved studies of social malaise and social conditions and provided the definition of the first experimental area management project in a British city.

At the time of local government reorganisation Amos was appointed Chief Executive to the City of Birmingham District Council in 1973. He was responsible for the remodelling of the structure of the authority, which sought to provide a high degree of inter-service co- ordination and cost-effective service delivery. In 1977 he became the Consultant to the Saudi Arabian government on the administrative structure of the new town of Jubail. He was appointed, in 1978, Senior Fellow at the School of Public Policy at Birmingham University where he was engaged on teaching within the school as well as research and consultancy.

After 1991 and up to the time of his death he was an independent consultant on institutional development and management, undertaking a number of commissions throughout the world, particularly in the developing countries. Recent appointments were as project manager for the British Know-How Fund local government assistance programme in Poland, and working for the Department of International Development in Bosnia, Pakistan and Ukraine. He was retained by the consultants Halcrow Fox and Associates and reported recently on restructuring the local authority in Mauritius in the light of economic changes. He also prepared the planning legislation for Malta at the request of Colin Buchanan and Partners.

Jim Amos gave extraordinary service to the Royal Town Planning Institute and was a member of its council continuously from 1964 to 2003. He was President in 1971-1972, the first to serve under the title of the Royal Town Planning Institute. He served as Honorary Secretary of the institute from 1979 to 1990 and as chairman of many of the institute's Committees. He was concerned that every person should be able to have proper access to all matters concerning the planning process and was responsible for instigating the institute's commitment to Planning Aid. For many years he acted as an external examiner to many universities and polytechnics, a task he always found rewarding.

George McDonic