Franklin Medhurst obituary

Other lives: Architect and town planner, author, campaigner and environmentalist

My father, Franklin Medhurst, who has died aged 98, was an architect and town planner, author, campaigner and environmentalist.

Two years ago the message in his pro-EU letter to the Guardian went viral and was retweeted by the MP Jo Cox days before she was murdered. Later, Frank, a lifelong cyclist, was asked to start the first Jo Cox Way bike ride, a 260-mile ride from Cox’s constituency in Birstall, West Yorkshire, to the House of Commons in London.

In the 1960s Frank was director of the Teesside Survey and Plan, a revolutionary 40-year urban restructuring programme. After two years, when the plan was almost complete, he was abruptly dismissed. He later claimed, in his book A Quiet Catastrophe (2013), that his firing was associated with the 70s Poulson affair.

Born to artisan glassmakers Arthur (known as Will) and Winifred (nee Maberly) in Bristol, Frank went to Askwith Memorial school in Taunton, Somerset. He was 19 when war broke out and he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. Frank served as a wireless operator and an air gunner, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for sinking a U-boat, which was only located this year.

He married Betty Blackwell in 1944, and after the war received ex-serviceman grants to train as an architect at Bristol School of Architecture (1946-1951) and then at the London School of Town Planning (1951-53), where he was taught by EAA Rowse.

From 1953 Frank worked for London county council and Pembrokeshire’s national park as a planner, and County Antrim planning office as a senior architect. In 1956 he became a lecturer in town planning at Manchester University, where he stayed for nine years. He co-wrote his first book, Urban Decay (1969), with John Parry Lewis.

In 1967, Frank started a private architectural practice in Teesside and co-founded Cleveland and Teesside Housing Association, (later part of Tees Valley Housing). He also headed the school of town planning at Leeds polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University), commuting from his home in Carlton, near Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham.

Betty and Frank divorced in the 70s, and in 1982 he married Jenny Hydes, a Fairtrade retailer, with whom he campaigned on poverty and against the Iraq war. He gained a further degree from the Open University in global politics (1989) and retired the following year.

In his 70s he planted a 3,000-tree wood near his home, recently named Franklin’s Wood. Complications from a heart operation in his 80s resulted in an amputation below the knee, but undeterred he bought a reclining tricycle which he rode into his late 90s. His final book, War and Liberty, was published last year.

Frank is survived by Jenny, five children from his first marriage, Nick, Steve, Bruce, Amelia and me, 11 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

Victoria Medhurst

The GuardianTramp

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