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.

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit