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The John Turner legacy

John F C Turner died this year at the age of 96 and it was clear from reaction to the news that he meant a great deal to a great many people in many parts of the world. Here are a few photos from my own interaction with this influential practitioner and thinker.

United Nations Habitat conference, 1976

Demonstration at the Habitat United Nations conference in Vancouver, Canada, 1976, to protest against the eviction of shanty town dwellers in the Philipines by the Marcos regime. John Turner, second from the right, is holding up a banner saying ‘PROGRAMMED HOUSING – NO! SELF HELP HOUSING – YES!’ (ref 10483)
John Turner (ref 10490)

International Design Participation conference, 1985

John Turner at the International Design Participation Conference, Eindhoven, 22-24 April 1985 (refs: 21026, 21028)

Kensington Palace dinner, 1985

John Turner (left) arriving at Kensington Palace, London for a black tie dinner for architectural educators hosted by Prince Charles, 15 July 1985 (ref 21719)

Habitat Forum International Conference, June 1987

John Turner presenting the results of a Habitat International Coalition project about self help housing worldwide which would later be published in the book Building Community edited by his wife Bertha Turner, Berlin, 1 – 11 June 1987  (ref 23602).
(ref 23607)

Poundbury planning weekend, 1989

Team photo for the Poundbury planning weekend, Dorset, 15-19 June 1989. John is in the second row, third from left in navy shirt (ref S0420).
Outdoors workshop at the Poundbury planning weekend. John is far left in brown trousers (ref S0473).
John Turner at the Poundbury Planning Weekend, 1989 (ref S0475)

Hastings regeneration, 1990

Group photo of Hastings Trust staff and volunteers outside the Conservation Shop in the High Street, Hastings Old Town, 1990. John Turner is one third in from the left with his wife Bertha in front of him (ref S1079).

Community planning, 2011

(John Turner with Bob Hart at a community planning masterclass, 26 October 2011 (ref D20111026028).
John Turner taking part in a community planning masterclass organised by Nick Wates Associates, Creative Media Centre, Hastings, 26 October 2011. From left: Penny Precious, Judy Dewsbery, John Turner, Graham Hodgson (Ref D20111026035, top D20111026028)

Legacy London seminar, 2017

On the train from Hastings with Mauricio Vicenti (ref D20170221948)
At a seminar titled ‘Towards an autonomy of housing; Legacy and topicality of John F C Turner’s work in Latin America and beyond’, Development Planning Unit, University College London, 21 February 2017.  From left: Geoff Payne, Hans Harms, John Turner, Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, Mauricio Vicenti, David Satterthwaite (ref D20170221959) .
At the reception afterwards (ref D20170221011)

A roof of my own, 2019

A screening of ‘A roof of my own’ during the St Leonards International Film Festival, Blackmarket VIP (George Street Hall), Hastings Old Town, 27 January 2019. From left: John Turner, Beth Turner, Heidi Berry (Ref: D20190127529)
John during the Q & A, 7 January 2019  (ref D20190127535).

Team  celebration, 2019

The Beacon, Hastings, 6 December 2019. From left: Beth Turner, John Turner, Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, José Luis Oyon, Kevin Carias, Volker Zimmermann  (ref D20191206300).

Some links to further info

Guardian obituary by Geoff Payne

From the JFCTurner archive

Housing Agency, by Cassim Shepard, Places Journal, November 2023

Conversation across the ages

Fascinating conversation in Leila’s café in Shoreditch in February 2018 organised by the dynamic East End Preservation Society.

Great to see veteran activists from the Tolmers Square campaign in the 1970s sharing experience with those campaigning over 40 years later on remarkably similar issues.

Plenty of scope for more such events to save people from having to continually reinvent the wheel.

In the photos below by Susie Clapham you can glimpse Patrick Allen, Martin Argles, Charles Campion, Sacha Craddock, the Gentle Author, Frances Holliss, Liz Jellinek, Leila, Ken Morgan, Will Palin, Mimi Romilly, Barry Shaw and Nick Wates amongst others.

More information on Tolmers here.

Tolmers conversation 3
Tolmers conversation 2
Tolmers conversation
Tolmers conversation 4

Back to school

I have enrolled to do a PhD by Publication at the University of Brighton, starting 1st April 2018. The working title is ‘Engagement in Placemaking’ and it will give me the opportunity to review the five main books I have produced over the years, assess their impact, reflect on their contribution to relevant academic fields and identify future initiatives needed.

All very exciting.

Academic focus on 5 books and their translations, adaptations and new editions: ‘The Battle for Tolmers Square’ ; ‘Squatting, the real story’; ‘Community Architecture’; ‘Action Planning’ and ‘The Community Planning Handbook’.

Spring 2020 Progress report – Dr Nick Wates

My doctorate was conferred on 2 March 2020 and you can see my thesis, Making Places Better here.

Also achieved:

  • Training in the latest research methods and online resources;
  • Sorted my archives and digitised some of them;
  • repaired and back in service;

Crowdfunding has made it possible. Thanks everyone. The crowdfunding page is now closed.


And here as promised is the small print:

Direct costs: 

  • Tuition fees £2,310
  • Train fares to Brighton £150
  • Repairs to database £415
  • Digitising £138
  • IT support £420
  • Printing and postage £50
  • Replacement laptop £350
  • Total £3,823

Funds raised:

  • Just Giving donations:  £1,600
  • Offline donations. £2,135
  • Total £3,735

Plus a fantastic contribution specifically for scanning Tolmers archives of £3,772 (only indirectly related to my PhD).

What shall we do with

Great logo.

The Community Planning Website was first conceived by Michael Mutter at DFID. We were completing the first edition of The Community Planning Handbook in 1999, which DFID supported the research for, and at one of the final editorial meetings, Michael suddenly declared, ‘“You do know that this book is really a website don’t you.”  He was right and DFID subsequently funded its design and construction.

Other enlightened organisations later sponsored various aspects of its development. Kelvin MacDonald initiated a tranche of case studies funded by The Royal Town Planning Institute, The Academy for Sustainable Development helped with a major update and English Partnerships, The European Union, The Prince’s Foundation, The Environment Agency and the Building & Social Housing Foundation all helped with specific features.

Its a great website and still well used. Its been Google’s Number 1 for ‘community planning’ for a decade and a half, despite determined efforts to unseat it. It has been praised for its design and content (see About this website).

There are many good new websites dealing with the same subject matter with more bells and whistles (e.g. Community21Community Heart and Soul) but remains an unrivalled resource of basic how-to guidance and listings.

Succession planning

But needs investment to update it, technically and editorially. The original business model of securing funding from advertising is no longer sufficient (as many other idealistic web publishers have found) and Nick Wates Associates, which owns the copyright, no longer has the necessary resources to subsidise it. We are therefore looking for a partner or partners to invest in it and take it forward.

Any takers please get in touch.

Nick Wates

Screenshot of the Home page, 2017, The site now contains 52 universal principles,  60 engagement methods, 22 development scenarios, 14 in-depth case studies,  7 special features, 205 publication listings, 125 website listings, 892 glossary items and much more.

40 years on

The 1976 United Nations Habitat conference in Vancouver was a significant moment for many of my generation. Human settlements were being discussed at a global level and public participation in their creation and management was the dominant theme. In my file of the event I found an unpublished article I wrote about it at the time which you can see here. It will be interesting to see if the conclusions on Habitat III – taking place in Quito, Ecuador this week – will be substantially different. I doubt it but live in hope.

Unable to get to Quito, my modest contribution to Habitat III has been supporting an initiative on John FC Turner’s work which you can see here.

And here are two archive photos:

Nick Wates at Habitat 1976
Address to Habitat Forum 1976 by (I think) Barbara Ward.