Tributes after death of top planner who helped shape Telford

Tributes have been paid after the death of Michael Barker, who as Telford's planning chief played a key role in steering and shaping the town in the 21st century.

Michael Barker, who was formerly head of planning for Telford & Wrekin Council.
Michael Barker, who was formerly head of planning for Telford & Wrekin Council.

Among major developments under his tenure were the showpiece Southwater complex, with Mr Barker helping translate the council's vision aimed at bringing new vitality to the town centre and stimulating the night-time economy.

Jointly paying tribute, Telford & Wrekin Council leader Councillor Shaun Davies and council chief executive David Sidaway said: "Michael will always be remembered for the work he undertook.

"Guided by his extensive knowledge, he laid the foundations for one of the fastest growing and economically competitive boroughs in the UK – a legacy which will live on and benefit communities across the borough."

Mr Barker, from Horsehay, was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1950. He graduated from the University of Durham and worked all his life in local government, starting his career at Staffordshire County Council.

He was head of planning at Telford & Wrekin Council from September 1997 to January 2016.

Councillor Davies said: "He was instrumental in guiding the town through a period of growth and change after the government-appointed Telford Development Corporation, which wound up in 1991, created the new town.

"Michael continued to play a key role in the borough’s growth, leading the development of the current adopted planning policies – the Telford & Wrekin Local Plan – we know today.

"Michael was a huge advocate for the borough’s green spaces and natural environment. He oversaw both the growth of the extensive green network into areas including Newport and the establishment of new local nature reserves affording protection to the borough’s natural assets.

"He understood the value of the borough’s heritage and worked closely with stakeholders to protect and conserve areas including Ironbridge. He was a long term member of the World Heritage Site Steering Group.

"He actively led on a number of other partnerships including the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

"Michael had many career highlights but most notably was instrumental in driving the vision for the Lawley urban extension – the largest in the UK at the time – the Lightmoor Village in partnership with Bournville Village Trust, and the Ketley Millennium Community."

Councillor Davies added: "As head of planning at the time of the Southwater development, Michael helped shape the council’s vision for the town centre’s growth introducing a night-time economy, improved links to the town park and the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets.

"His legacy continues to live and grow around us, including proposals for the Station Quarter – the next phase of the town centre transformation.

"Michael was a strong advocate for planning and continued this into retirement by supporting a number of parishes with their neighbourhood development plans.

"Outside of the council’s work, he was also highly active within the Royal Town Planning Institute."

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