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Fred Pooley - quiet-voiced pragmatist - dies aged 81

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Former RIBA president Fred Pooley - who concluded his career heading architecture, planning and transport at the GLC - has died aged 81. Born in West Ham in London's East End, he qualified as an architect, planner and surveyor before serving with the Royal Engineers during the war. He also qualified as a structural engineer and arbitrator.

In 1949 he joined the borough of West Ham as deputy architect and planner, then took the same job in Coventry where he helped plan the country's first pedestrianised city centre, and introduced concrete-clad high-rise housing. Perhaps his most significant role, between 1953 and 1974, was as Buckinghamshire County Architect, where he resolutely avoided joining any of the system-building consortia, preferring to see brick buildings with pitched roofs - closer to the character of the county.

His county council HQ was an exception to the rule.

In planning terms his main influence was in the promotion of Milton Keynes, although it was a long way removed from his original conception of a significant high-rise centre at the heart of an extensive monorail system.

A long-time RIBA councillor, he came to prominence in the aftermath of a massive row over subscription levels under Alex Gordon's presidency, which he helped defuse, taking over as president from 1973-1975. During that period he was appointed to the GLC, initially as head of planning and transportation and subsequently as superintending architect, where he remained until retirement in 1980. He was quietly effective in a role which again required a certain amount of cleaningup after controversy, for example over the third London airport and the demise of the planned 'motorway box'. Liked by almost everyone who worked with him, he was a quiet-voiced pragmatist - but one whose leaps of imagination could surprise.

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