Obituary: Professor Peter Stott
Friday 20 August 1993
PETER STOTT's career in civil engineering covered many facets of the profession. In his time he was a consulting engineer, a director of large public organisations and an academic, as well as taking leading roles in the direction of the profession itself.
His abilities were evident from the start and he became a partner in the firm of G. Maunsell & Partners at the age of 28. His bridge design work during the next eight years took him to Australia, where he was involved included the Commonwealth Kings Avenue Bridges in Canberra, the Gladesville Bridge, Sydney, the Tasman Bridge, Hobart, and the Narrows Bridge in Perth.
Engineers in Australia held him in high regard for his work in the field of pre-stressed concrete, the medium used by him for the design and construction of the elegant Hammersmith Flyover for the London County Council which drew him to the attention of their Chief Engineer, Francis Fuller, whom he joined as his deputy in 1963. Upon Fuller's death, he became the last Chief Engineer of the LCC before the Greater London Council came into being in 1965, and he was appointed Director of Highways and Transportation.
With all of London's traffic and its principal highway construction, as well as its planning, under one authority and executive for the first time, Stott seized the challenge. He advertised for team leaders in the newly formed department, bringing some candidates from the United States for interview, and offering significantly enhanced salaries for engineers. The effect of this reached beyond the GLC, resulting in the salaries for engineers throughout the country being brought up to realistic levels after a period of stagnation.
The next eight years saw many original and tangible results due to his drive, with the construction of London's first motorways, two-thirds of its traffic signals put under computer control, bus lanes, clearways and improved safety. Through his initiative the Joint Traffic Executive was formed, co-chaired by him, as Traffic Commissioner, and an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, which brought the order-making and enforcement authorities together, working in co-operation on London's traffic problems.
Those who worked with Stott during this period were carried along by his enthusiasm and the fast pace he set; this was exemplified by his daily 20-minute meetings with senior staff at 9.10am, working to an agenda delivered to them the evening before.
His work expanded in 1969 when his department was merged with the GLC's Planning Department and he became one of the Joint Controllers. Following the Greater London Development Plan Inquiry, where most of the objections concerned London's highway plans, involving him in intense work, Stott left the GLC in 1973 to become the first Director-General of the National Water Council. This was at the time when the new water authorities were formed. He held this new and different post for 10 years, until the dissolution of the council. During this time he extended his activities in this field of engineering, becoming Secretary General of the International Water Supply Association.
His next appointment, in 1983, as Nash Professor of Civil Engineering at King's College London, marked yet another significant change of direction in his career during which he employed his wide practical and administrative experience to the benefit fo his students, who were fortunate to have such a mentor.
From early in his career Stott took a keen interest in the civil engineering profession at large. He was President of the Reinforced Concrete Association in 1964 and of the Concrete Society three years later. He was President of the Institution of Highway Engineers in 1971.
The Institution of Civil Engineers received particular benefit from his involvement. After three periods on Council he was elected President in 1989, leading the institution at a time when a new organisation structure to meet the present-day needs of the profession was being implemented. His portrait at Great George Street depicting him as alert, enquiring and thoughtful, with the Hammersmith Flyover in the background, says a lot about him.
Peter Stott was a big person both in stature and ability. He made an instant impression on all who came in contact with him. Those working with him were conscious of an inner impatience to achieve the goals he saw so clearly, which expressed itself in a kindly and patient approach to those about him, albeit insistent when the need arose to get things done. A man of good humour, he had the ability to analyse any situation and propose the way ahead in an exceptionally cogent and lucid manner. He advanced the civil engineering profession by his achievements.
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