Obituary: Professor J. S. Allen

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The Independent Online
When Professor Joseph Stanley Allen was appointed to the Chair in Town and Country Planning at King's College, Newcastle University, in 1946, he was the sole member of a new department with just a handful of students, most of whom had just been demobilised.

Allen's great charm, wit and friendly personality served him well in the task that faced him. As with several other university and local authority schools of architecture, King's College (which was formerly part of Durham University) had previously included town planning in its curriculum as a part-time study directed to the needs of the planning legislation of the 1930s. However, looking ahead to the post-war developments from the legendary 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, the first proper planning act, King's College produced a syllabus for a five-year full-time undergraduate course in town and country planning which included a range of subjects far exceeding those of the pre-war planning courses.

By early 1947 Allen had begun to make use of his skill in attracting staff who had some experience in the widened scope of planning (I joined him from the School of Planning in London, to where he had travelled in search of staff in late 1946; I was teaching mostly ex-servicemen on the high-pressure three-month course designed to train enough planners to do the work of the 1947 Act). From 1947 all staff had the qualities necessary to take on the new fields. The result was that after five years Allen had built up a large and flourishing department, responsible for the first undergraduate course in town and country planning, and left a legacy of a thriving organisation with many research interests as well as the important task of providing new town and country planners.

Developments in the department included his institution of the journal Planning Outlook, which still exists today under the name of the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, while with his great support a full-time landscape design course started in 1951, the first such course after the closing down of the landscape course at Reading University a few years earlier.

In addition to his involvement in the new department, Allen - who was a trained architect - contributed much to the architectural scene, for example designing the new Science Building at Durham University in the 1950s, along with his assistant (Sir) William Whitfield, and to the planning scene, with consultant work at Seascale, Chichester, Accrington, and to the first university plan at Durham. He also served as consultant to the Snowdonia National Park from 1957 to 1974, and was a member of the Forestry Commission North of England Advisory Committee, and of advisory committes for the care of churches in Ripon, Newcastle and York dioceses. On the professional bodies, he was a member of the council of the RIBA, and president of the Town Planning Institute from 1957 to 1959, being also involved in various committees of his institutes.

Joseph Stanley Allen was born in 1898. He was educated at Liverpool Collegiate School and the School of Architecture at Liverpool University, where he gained an RIBA Athens bursary. After a period of postgraduate study in the United States, in 1929 he became a lecturer at Liverpool University, then strongly under the influence of Sir Charles Reilley and Sir Patrick Abercrombie, followed by 12 years as head of the School of Architecture at Leeds from 1933 to 1945. It was here that his interest in planning developed, and he founded a part-time planning course in 1934.

A special interest of Allen's outside his professional work was the farm in Ovingham in Northumberland to which he moved in the late 1950s and where he was successful in building up a herd of Jersey cows and Welsh ponies, supported by his first wife Mary, who died in 1974. His second marriage to Meryl Watts was equally a happy one, but she died in 1992.

Joseph Stanley Allen's remarkable memory remained with him until well into his nineties. He could compare architecture and planning in the 1930s with the great changes after the Second World War, and with great perception.

Joseph Stanley Allen, planner: born 15 March 1898; Head, Leeds School of Architecture 1933-45; Professor and Head of Department of Town and Country Planning, Newcastle University 1946-63 (Emeritus); married 1931 Mary Pugh (died 1974; one son, one daughter), 1977 Meryl Watts (died 1992); died 15 March 1997.