Celebration of life achievement as former president receives honour

After a lifetime spent in the profession and a career of innovation on which to reflect, the RTPI honours a past president.

Ewart Parkinson FRTPI was honoured with the RTPI's lifetime achievement award for his prolific and award-winning career. Ewart's contribution to planning saw him break new ground in relations with China and the former Soviet Union. As a county planner he was able to take a cross-disciplinary and strategic approach to regeneration, particularly in Wales, where his presence is strongly felt to this day.

Following the general assembly on 20 October, Ewart received the presentation in front of family and friends. The ceremony took place in the Glamorgan Council Chamber in Cardiff University, a fitting location for the former city planning officer of Cardiff and former South Glamorgan county planner.

The lifetime achievement award is for members of the institute who have made a significant and exceptional contribution to planning over a long and distinguished career. Professor Nathaniel Litchfield is the only other recipient of the honour to date. The award is timely recognition and not limited to an annual cycle.

Ewart Parkinson is a planner and engineer of international repute. He has led many planning study tours globally including trips to Africa, Asia, China and the former Soviet Union. He was central to the RTPI planning and delivering study tours all over the world. His international work was recognised when he was made an honourary life member of the International Federation for Housing and Planning, a worldwide network of professionals representing the broad field of housing and planning.

Combined with his academic and professional careers, Ewart has given much of his time to the RTPI including being chairman of the south Wales branch and an active member of the council and committees and president of the RTPI in 1975-76. His inauguration address set out clearly the fundamental principles that have underpinned his planning career.

"What I intend in this coming year is to explore the relationships between people and their needs, the political process that articulates those needs and the planners who serve both the people and the political process."

Ewart has described his earliest memory - when he was around six years old - of his mother saying: "Ewart, they are going to pull our house down." When he asked why they were doing such a dreadful thing, she replied: "Because they say it's a slum." He thought: "But it's a lovely house and we're happy here." And when he went to bed he began to wonder how on earth they could pull a house down.

He left school when he was 16 and started work as a civil engineering learner for four years at the town hall. His salary of £52 a year was so wonderful, he could give his mother 15 shillings each week and still have five shillings left over to spend.

Through his first qualification Ewart was an engineer, winning prizes from the institutions of civil and municipal engineers for papers on topics such as "The duties of a municipal engineer" and "Prospects for parking" before making his way as a planner. With childhood experiences such as Ewart has reported, he had found his destiny.

Ewart has had an active professional life delivering on practical projects around the UK, especially in Cardiff. He was selected as leader for the concept team for the Millennium Stadium, delivered in time for the 1999 Rugby World Cup. He has also played a major part in the regeneration of the then derelict docklands of Tiger, now Cardiff Bay, including the construction of the county hall.

A multidisciplinary approach to planning is something that the RTPI aims to promote. Ewart was able to make such a wide contribution to both planning and engineering on issues such as transport, environment, urban policy, land policy and overseas development because of his broad background in urbanism. As first director of environment and planning at South Glamorgan he was responsible for planning, engineering and architecture for the county.

Ewart took his experience and knowledge and used it to make a prolific contribution to academia and the dissemination of knowledge globally through award-winning papers, lecturing and as an external examiner. His contribution to young planners has been invaluable. He promotes planning as a creative industry that encompasses the most democratic and inclusive values, and cannot understand why more young people are not taking up planning as a career.

A constant throughout his writings has been a drive for planners to understand the goals and social needs of communities so that they can meet their objectives. Ewart is a proponent of planning as a key tenet of the democratic process.

RTPI president Mike Hayes said: "Ewart Parkinson has made a remarkable contribution to planning and has pioneered a strategic approach to development and regeneration on a national, regional and city-wide basis. We would especially like to thank Ewart for his enthusiastic contribution to the work of the RTPI, especially in organising and running study visits around the globe."

Throughout his life Ewart has generously given of his time to a whole host of causes and groups. He has made a contribution to Wales through his membership of the Sports Council for Wales, chairmanship of the South Glamorgan Council of Voluntary Service, as vice-president of the Wales Council for the Disabled and as founder and chairman of the Wales Sports Centre for the Disabled Trust.

Most recently Ewart was president of the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust, for which he received the St Olav medal from King Harald of Norway for services to Norway-Wales relations.

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