Obituary: Frank Tindall

IT WAS said of Frank Tindall that he tended the beautiful county of East Lothian as if it were a garden - albeit he was a somewhat ferocious head gardener who was in no doubt as to what was good for the plants in his charge. For 35 years he was East Lothian's planning dynamo, from 1950 to 1975 for East Lothian County and from 1975 to 1985 for Lothian Region. The late Professor John Mackintosh MP placed him as one of the great Scots of his generation in pioneering forms of urban renewal and countryside management.

Tindall came of a family of civil engineers and builders. After Uppingham he read History at Clare College, Cambridge, taking as his special subject the years 1293-1301, the period that saw the growth of towns at the expense of the feudal system, and when the Second World War came he went straight into the Army.

He enlisted in the Rifle Brigade as a private, was sent to the Eighth Army, and commissioned into the Sudan Defence Force. Their military function was to provide cover and supply lines in south Cyrenaica, Libya, and in particular to provide supply points for the circumventing surprise attack on Benghazi. Tindall served in the Eighth Army from the Egyptian border, across North Africa, and up to the spine of Italy.

He was notably reticent about his military exploits, but his defining moment came in the freezing winter of 1945 when he was Major in charge at Klagenfurt. Wood was desperately needed to keep the population and the soldiers warm. He gave orders for trees to be felled. Within hours, an Austrian presented himself: "Sir, I am a forestry commissioner of the oldest forestry authority in Europe, that of the Habsburgs. Please do not cut those young trees; they are not sufficiently mature. I shall show you better, mature trees 20 kilometres away, which you should cut." He did. Tindall was converted both to forestry management and planning. Years later he was to be a founding father of Central Scotland Woodlands, now a hugely successful environmentally conscious organisation, and of the Scottish Countryside Commission.

Having gained a diploma with distinction from the School of Planning in London he worked for two years with Berthold Lubetkin, on the social and economic aspects of the master plan for the new town of Peterlee in County Durham. There was a row and he resigned with Lubetkin and the rest of the master-plan team.

He had the good fortune then to work with Sir William Holford, Professor Gordon Stephenson and Sir Colin Buchanan, with whom he shared a room at the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. They were mainly concerned with the updating of The Manual for the Redevelopment of Town Centres, originally written in 1946 by Mary Miller, his wife-to-be, and with approving, after much modification, plans for rebuilding bombed city centres. (Mary Miller's first impression of Major Tindall was of his wearing a waistcoat and carrying an umbrella which she considered most unsuitable for a student; his of her was of the first girl he had seen wearing the "New Look" - a long brown suit acquired in Canada while in Britain clothes were still rationed.)

On the advice of Sir Frank Mears, the son-in-law of Sir Patrick Geddes who was their consultant, the East Lothian councillors appointed Tindall in 1950 as their director of planning. There were then only 18 qualified town planners working in Scotland; now there are 1,800.

The only concern that the East Lothian selection committee expressed over his appointment was how long the young graduate bachelor would stay. Tindall, who had a wry sense of humour, said that he would stay long enough to make it "worthwhile for us both".

In the 1950s there were three large collieries in East Lothian, two on the coast at Prestongrange, employing 694 miners, and Preston Links, where Cockenzie power station now stands, employing 836 miners, and one on the Fleets, south of Tranent, employing 595 miners, where the Inveresk research station was built. Tindall persuaded the National Coal Board to landscape this area, and demonstrated how the old scarred areas of the Scottish coalfield could be restored into good, beautiful countryside.

When he moved into East Lothian memory was still fresh of the catastrophic flood of 1948 when the River Tyne lapped at the doorstep of the Town House in Haddington. The survey report examined the river, its history of flooding and the sources of its pollution. In the 1950s most settlements and industries discharged through grossly overloaded septic tanks into the Tyne or its tributaries. By constant persuasion of the personnel of the Lothian Purification Board, Tindall transformed the situation. The Tyne now supports good fish and bird life with salmon and kingfishers as far upstream as Pencaitland.

With difficulty Tindall persuaded the water authorities to lengthen their marker boards to measure the optimum flood flows as well as the minimum flows which were their main concern. This innovation was to be of particular interest after the flooding in 1956. Tindall mapped the extent of the flood plain along the Tyne and then made it possible for any county planning committee to refuse consent for new buildings on it and also recommended that floor levels of restored or extended buildings should be one foot above the 1956 flood level.

Tindall's greatest legacy was perhaps in the many young planners and architects who came under his influence and went out to other authorities with the ideas they had learnt from him. George MacNeill, now Director of Planning for West Lothian, describes him as "inspirational".

After Tindall's retirement he threw himself into the work of the National Trust for Scotland and the Lothians Historic Buildings Trust. His autobiography will, I hope, be published. It tells of the pioneering days when there was more construction than there has ever been before or since, and, with the disasters of the 1930s still in mind, great public support for the concept of planning. "It was a time," Tindall writes, "when one could stretch the limits of planning to cover all aspects of the environment . . . embracing Folk - Work - Place": in the tradition of his hero Sir Patrick Geddes.

Tam Dalyell

Frank Purser Tindall, planner: born Englefield Green, Surrey 21 January 1919; Planning Officer, East Lothian County Council 1950-75; OBE 1969; Director of Physical Planning, Lothian Regional Council, 1975-85; married 1951 Mary Miller (two sons, one daughter); died Inverness 11 March 1998.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before