We are delighted to introduce the inaugural RSA Member of the Month (August 2019), our initiative designed to celebrate the work and achievements of our membership. We are even more delighted to have Professor Alan Townsend as our first Member of the Month, who has been a member of the RSA since 1968!
ALAN TOWNSEND is one of relatively few people who have worked extensively in both physical and economic planning, and in both universities and public authorities. He joined the RSA in heady days of 1968 when plans for strategic motorway building and a new round of New Towns were in the Guardian newspaper almost every day. He was then working for planning consultants on one of the first sub-regional Land-Use Transportation Studies. This led him to be Secretary, then Chair, of the RSA Northern Branch (the committee meetings held in the back room of a pub) and a long career in regional economic development at Durham University, England from 1967 to 2005, finally retiring as Professor of Regional Regeneration & Development Studies.
However, his commitment to the subject arose from earlier work on Regional Policy as a government research officer. He recalls giving a paper at the RSA Conference in Manchester in 1983 when inner city riots were occurring nearby, with material in his first book on “The Impact of Recession”, Croom Helm (1983). Much of his work, including backing NOMIS (the National Online Manpower Information System) at Durham was for public aims. He undertook 19 years as Councillor, Chairing Planning, and Regeneration Committees in District and Town Councils.
When the whole Regional system came to an end in 2010, he rescued the Regional Observatory of an RDA to Chair the North East Research & Information Network. With two co-authors, he contributed conference and published papers in “retirement” from two main streams of work, one on the need for sub-regional strategic plans, and one on employment change and regeneration in City Regions.
His first writing on Europe, with the book “Making a Living in Europe” Routledge, was only in 1989, and he only gave his first paper on Europe at the recent RSA Annual Conference in Santiago de Compostela, on striking Common Employment Trends across the EU28.