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'I stand back see the sun shining through and feel proud'

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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STAFFORD man Phil Goode often walks along the town's high street and thinks to himself how proud he is.

He has vivid memories of the town centre regularly being clogged with traffic and shoppers dodging cars in the years before it was pedestrianised.

So when he worked as a town planner at Staffordshire County Council he was one of the instigators behind the plan to take cars out of the high street altogether and changing the landscape of the town forever.

"It was a fight though,” laughs Phil as we chat over coffee at his Island Green home, which incidentally he designed himself.

“None of the shop keepers wanted it despite the fact that traffic in the main street was blocked solid. This was before we had a ring road and a motorway.

“I find it quite astonishing looking back now, especially because people have really accepted it.

“Stafford’s high street is one of the most attractive that you can visit and I still stand back, see the sun shining through the trees and feel proud.

“It has been a big success story and was repeated in other towns, such as Rugeley, Uttoxeter and Newcastle-under-Lyme. Making the town centres traffic free have been my proudest moments.”

Phil ended up in Stafford by chance. He hails from Smethwick, born in 1927, and has nothing but fond memories of his early life with his parents and siblings.

Smethwick, he says, was a fascinating place as it was one of the areas at the heart of the industrial revolution.

However, when the Second World War began he vividly recalls the bombs dropping.

"We used to go out and collect the shrapnel the next day," he recalls.

"I can remember one incident where I heard the whistling of the bombs and I realised I was sitting right by the bay window. I thought that's not a good place to be so I dived under the table. My sister laughed at me when she saw me crawling out."

It's no wonder then that he and a number of other children were evacuated to the countryside for six months. He ended up in Newport, Shropshire and loved every minute of it, not least because there they were free to roam the countryside. They climbed trees and skated on the frozen canals in the winter.

Having attended grammar school he left at the age of 16 and knew he wanted to work in planning. He had even done an essay on town planning at school and his headmaster accused him of copying it, "which I took as a compliment," laughs Phil.

As the war was coming to an end there was something exciting about building the future and the so-called brave new world. He followed his dream to make a career in planning and 65 years later he is still doing so, although now on a voluntary basis with the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

His first job was with South Staffordshire Water Works in Birmingham, which he loved. It was a steep learning curve and looking back he believes he was thrown right in at the deep end.

Nevertheless he earned qualifications, learning draftsmanship, surveying and book-keeping among other things. He also went to college, completing part-time courses in building construction and structural engineering.

He then began work for a firm of architects in Birmingham, where he did surveying for housing sites.

He chuckles: "It was the mid 1940s and I had to get the bus to all the different sites, carrying a tripod, rods, a heavy chain, notebooks and any other equipment so I must have been quite a sight."

At one point he found himself in Stoke quite regularly as firms were changing to new kilns and he had to do the measurements. It worked out well, however, as Phil ended up with lots of heavily discounted crockery, at a time when there was a shortage post-war, for his and fiancee Ida's bottom drawer.

He married Ida at the age of 21 and they promptly moved to Suffolk as Phil got a job with the county council there.

"It was idyllic," he says. "We lived in a rectory and the rector and his wife really looked after us. I used to have a motorbike but I soon got rid of it and got a pedal cycle while we were there."

The couple's first child Roderick was born there but they soon began to feel the pull of home.  Phil got a job in the area planning office at Staffordshire County Council and the family moved to Stafford.

As with today's young house-buyers it was difficult to afford to get on the property ladder so Phil kept an eye out for some land to build on instead. Eventually he found some at Island Green and the couple spent a fraught 18 months building their own bungalow where they still live today.

“It was easy designing it because I had the qualifications but the builders were going bankrupt so it was a tough time. The day we moved in was glorious.”

Phil spent the rest of his career with Staffordshire County Council.

He eventually became head of the design section and recalls various projects, including those involving the reclamation of derelict land in areas such as Cannock and Kidsgrove.

“We did conservation, planted trees. Even now I go past little bits of land that we transformed and feel quite pleased with our work,” he says.

A major reorganisation of local authorities and the creation of the district councils led to Phil making the decision to take early retirement in 1981.

As a father to three children, also including Andrew and Patrick, the first of their six grandchildren was on the way and Phil, who also now has a great-grandchild, was keen to spend time his family.

However, it also marked the start of a new chapter with the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

He volunteers as a planning adviser and the aim is to protect the countryside as much as possible.

Phil’s 30-year efforts for the organisation were recognised with a gold medal and he recently received a commendation for his work.

It is for Phil an extension of the planning career he enjoyed for the first 30 years.

He adds: “I am dismayed to see the way the planning profession is being seen as an obstacle to the economy and prosperity. Planners stand there as a balance between all different competing people. They are there to create a better quality of life. Sadly it seems to be taking the wrong course.

“However, I feel privileged to have been able to do something that I enjoy so much for a living.”


NAME: Phil Goode

AGE: 85

OCCUPATION: Planning adviser

CAR: Austin Mini

HOBBIES: Reading, travel, woodworking and model making.

MUSIC: Classical easy listening.

HOLIDAY DESTINATION: Caravanning all over

FOOD & DRINK: Home cooking & don’t have a favourite drink

NEWSPAPER: The Telegraph

BOOK: Any works by Rudyard Kipling

PIN-UP: I don’t have one

LOVE/HATE: Family and the countryside/The sprawl of advertisements

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