Duncan Campbell 1935-2023
APRS was sad to hear of the passing of Duncan Campbell who served on our Executive Committee. John Mayhew (Director 2008-2022) has reflected on Duncan’s work with us and across Scotland.
I first met Duncan during the 1990s, when I was working in policy and planning at The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), and he represented the Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS) on NTS Council. Many years later he contacted me at APRS on behalf of the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh’s Civic Trust. He was deeply involved in seeking to protect the Edinburgh Green Belt, particularly around his Colinton home. His hope was to enlist support for this work from national eNGOs.
I arranged for him to give presentations to two relevant Scottish Environment LINK groups – Landscape and Planning. On both occasions this stimulated lively and supportive debate, but none of the LINK member bodies involved felt that this was a sufficient priority for them to take the lead. It soon dawned on me that if any eNGO was going to take this up as a national issue then it had to be APRS.
Out of this realisation gradually emerged the APRS Green Belts Alliance, a loose assemblage of local groups across Scotland active in protecting their local Green Belts, overseen by Duncan and supported by myself. Its objectives were partly derived from the earlier Scottish Green Belts Alliance, which had declined over the years. We eventually raised enough money to employ Nikki Sinclair for one day a week to develop and promote the work of the Alliance and to offer advice to its members – work which continues today. Duncan joined APRS Council to give him a formal role in its governance, then shortly afterwards joined its Executive Committee, becoming ever more involved in other aspects of its work. He frequently thanked staff and others for their work where he felt this was merited, a gesture which was always appreciated.
Duncan’s contribution partly rested on his rare status as both a forester and a landscape architect. He was determined and persistent in pressing his views and we did not always agree, although I think it fair to say that we always respected each other’s points of view. His heart was undoubtedly in the right place – the landscapes of Scotland, particularly those around its towns and cities. Also, despite being unbendingly opposed to some developments, he was always keen to stress that if they did go ahead they should strive for the highest quality of landscape design.
One memorable occasion took place in September 2016, when we decided to make Green Belts the focus of our annual Members’ Day. Duncan came up with the idea of hiring a boat to travel through Edinburgh’s Green Belt along the Union Canal. The day dawned windy, resulting in the boat company changing the route at short notice for safety reasons. In the end therefore we travelled westwards from Ratho to the impressive Almond viaduct rather than eastwards through the Green Belt. But Duncan, undaunted, delivered a lengthy and detailed lecture on the history, current status and future prospects of Scotland’s Green Belts, while the boat swayed its way along the canal. Someone made a DVD of the occasion and distributed copies after the event, but I’m not sure where the APRS copy was stored.
Duncan leaves behind him a formidable legacy, both in his professional contribution to the Forestry Commission, CCS and Scottish Natural Heritage, and in retirement with the Cockburn Association and APRS. People in many parts of Scotland owe him sincere gratitude for his advice and support for the landscapes of their precious local Green Belts, which partly thanks to his efforts now benefit from stronger protection in national planning policy.
APRS Director 2008-2022