Obituary: Professor Gerald Wibberley

Gerald Percy Wibberley, agricultural economist: born 15 April 1915; Assistant Lecturer, Manchester University 1940-41; District Officer, East Sussex Agricultural Committee 1941-43, Assistant Executive Officer 1943-44; Assistant Rural Land Utilisation Officer, Ministry of Agriculture 1944-49, Research Officer, Land Use 1949-54; Head of Department of Economics, Wye College, London University 1954- 69, Reader in Agricultural Economics 1958-62, Professor of Rural Economy 1963-69, Fellow 1985; director CoSIRA, 1968-86; President, British Agricultural Economics Society 1975- 76; Chairman, Rural Planning Service Ltd 1972-82; married Helen Yeomans (died 1963; one daughter), 1972 Peggy Samways; died Charing, Kent 8 November 1993.

GERALD WIBBERLEY played a leading role in raising public awareness of the need to have a balance of activities in the countryside in order to protect the environment itself and the welfare of the people living in it.

Wibberley was born in Abergavenny, in the shadow of the Black Mountains, in 1915. He took a First Class honours degree in Agriculture at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he was greatly influenced by the doyen of agricultural economics, Arthur Ashby, and completed a masters degree at the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, Oxford, and his Ph D at the University of Illinois.

He returned to Britain in 1940 and was appointed District Officer of the East Sussex Agricultural Committee with the wartime task of encouraging maximum food production. In addition to these activities, he was also a member of a Home Guard guerrilla unit, which, in the event of an enemy invasion, was trained to operate behind enemy lines. He had many amusing anecdotes about these secret, underground activities, which did not offend his Quaker beliefs.

After the war, he joined the Rural Land Utilisation section of the Ministry of Agriculture, where he began to develop his perception of the economic and social implications arising from competing uses of rural land. His views became a challenge to the conventional orthodoxy of farming first. He found this discomforting within the bureaucracy, so he moved into

academe.

It is perhaps forgotten how powerful the farming lobby was when Wibberley was appointed Reader and Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Wye College in 1954. There was vociferous opposition to his main theme: emphasising the importance of non- farming uses of land. This opposition was especially marked towards seminal works such as The Garden Controversy (1956), by R. Best and J. Ward, and Wibberley's Agriculture and Urban Growth (1959). But these publications greatly influenced both generations of students, and thought and legislation on land-use planning over the next 20 years.

Wibberley was appointed Professor of Rural Economy in 1963 and Ernest Cook Professor of Countryside Planning, jointly between University College, London, and Wye College in 1969. At that time he was greatly in demand as an expert witness, and on large land-use commissions, such as those inquiring into the proposed site for Third London Airport, Lyme New Town and Milton Keynes.

Although he provided leadership in dealing with the problems (which increasing affluence and mobility brought to the countryside), he nevertheless showed himself to be, academically, a man of vision who doggedly pursued a multi- disciplinary approach. The teaching and research undertaken in his department embraced not only the traditional subjects of agricultural policy and farm business management, but also the conservation and socio-economics of the countryside and agrarian development in the Third World. The latter arose from his contact with agricultural faculties of universities, in Africa and the West Indies, in a special relationship with London University.

Wibberley's insight and forecasts have thus changed the resource balance and focus of Wye College, to meet the present needs of rural development, at home and overseas.

He was a director of the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas, a member of the Nature Conservancy Council, and an honorary member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. He was president of the Agricultural Economics Society in 1976, appointed CBE in 1972 and awarded an honorary DSc by Bradford University in 1982, the year he retired. In 1985 he was elected a Fellow of Wye College.

Gerald Wibberley was a kindly and attractive man, held in affection by friends, colleagues and students alike. Though quintessentially an academic, he was a man of compassion; so his studies tended to focus on problems of rural deprivation - as they affected farm and rural workers and rural youth. He gave much thought to the problems of creating rural employment and to the adverse impact of second homes on village life and economy.

His gift for public speaking was memorable; even his economics lectures gained the rapt attention of his students. But he was at his most eloquent when gently berating a hostile audience for not seeing the folly of their views.

Gerald Wibberley also loved music and had a fine tenor voice; singing with local choral societies was for him a source of great pleasure. On occasions he even strummed a guitar while singing a country and western song.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • 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 People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

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