Our Community Council colleague and dear friend, Dave Sutton, passed away unexpectedly in Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, on 26 May 2020 after a short illness.
Dave was a man of principle who believed in social equality and fighting injustice, particularly where the rights of individuals or the community were under threat. Ever generous with his time, he would take up any cause where people were in trouble or struggling to have their voices heard.
Dave was particularly passionate about planning democracy, believing that many planning processes and decisions were not fair, transparent or locally accountable. Indeed, he felt strongly that the past decade had seen the balance of influence in planning tilt away from citizens and communities to serve the interests of developers and government authorities.
Dave’s principled stance on the developer-orientation of planning led him to freeze his Royal Town Planning Institute membership in protest at their unwillingness to support Equal Rights of Appeal for those affected by development as well as those proposing development. Scottish Parliament TV footage even shows him holding up a placard saying ‘Scottish Planning RIP’ during an evidence-gathering session of the Local Government and Communities Committee on the Planning Bill in 2018.
As a member of Cambuslang Community Council, Dave provided extensive advice and practical support to local residents in both Cambuslang and Halfway on contentious planning issues. He spent many hours poring through Council documents, lobbying for access to information which he felt belonged in the public domain, submitting FOI requests and challenging planning decisions. Dave was an advisor to Planning Democracy, a charity set up to campaign for a fair and inclusive planning system in Scotland. He mentored a number of groups and individuals, helping them understand and navigate their way through the Scottish planning system.
Dave was a regular contributor to the Letters page of Herald Scotland, highlighting deficiencies in the regulation of house-building, road maintenance, unadopted streets, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, the Fatal Accident Inquiry system, and environmental impact assessments. In each case, his letters illustrated his command of the subject, knowledge of relevant legislation, and references to data or personal experience.
This knowledge came from a lifetime of public service. Born in 1952, Dave qualified as an Architect in Sheffield and had an MA in Regeneration Studies. He worked as a Design & Heritage Officer in Kingswood and South Gloucestershire Councils, ran housing and building cooperatives, and was a Director at Bristol Airport. Dave had a commitment to early years learning, chairing two nursery schools in Bristol for over 20 years and was a founding Chair of the Bristol Early Years Development Partnership. Moving to Scotland in 2007, he took on the post of Strategic Planning Manager with North Lanarkshire Council, where he worked on design and heritage issues, town centre regeneration and the Local Plan.
Retirement in 2013 saw no slowing down in Dave’s contribution to his field. He was Director and then Secretary of Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, a member of the Scottish Branch of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, and a board member of Friends of Douglas Park (set up locally in Cambuslang to prevent local greenspace from being sold by the local authority). He also continued his political activism as a member of the Labour Party and a former Chair of the South Gloucestershire Branch of UNISON.
Albert Einstein once said that “only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”. Throughout his life, Dave always lived for others, and many have benefited from his truly worthwhile life. He will be sorely missed by his family and many in the wider community.
Dave is survived by his wife Nancy, daughter Jessica, sister Valerie and brother Kenneth.
John Bachtler (Cambuslang Community Council) and Clare Symonds (Planning Democracy)
*This is an updated version (posted 5 September 2020) from the original version posted in June 2020 and was published in The Herald on 2 September 2020, available here.