Obituary: Trevor Sprott OBE, Strategist planned the infrastructure required for the North Sea oil industry
Born: 22 April, 1933, in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Died: 19 February, 2012, in Dundonald, Northern Ireland, aged 78
Trevor Sprott was the strategist whose inspirational planning created the physical infrastructure that made north-east Scotland the home of the North Sea oil industry. His vision went beyond mere structure plans and associated development control, foreseeing development of harbours, rebuilding communications and identifying sources of power.
His early engagement with the nascent oil industry identified needs and aspirations, leading to onshore developments of housing, industrial space and the vast areas needed for pipework fabrication and storage.
His ideas on transport infrastructure proved catalytic in the subsequent expansion of Peterhead Bay Authority and Aberdeen Harbour Board – the latter being the astonishing alteration of an ancient business (the oldest trading operation in the UK, according to the Guinness Book of Records) from a tidal system based on a medieval rivermouth to a 24-hour international port.
Underlying Sprott’s professionalism lay a co-ordinated approach, establishing future requirements rather than reacting to events.
He forecast a need for a consistent long-term power source, and to this end, identified a site at Troup Head on the Moray Coast as a place for a future nuclear power station.
It was his personal regret for him that Troup Head, like the proposed nuclear station at Chapeldonan, south of Girvan, came to nothing.
A big man with a big heart, Sprott was the Ulsterman who made the north-east Scotland his adopted home. His physical size (he had been both an athlete of note and an Irish rugby trialist) and considerable personality made his presence something of a stock-in-trade, and he would cheerfully dominate meetings regardless of whether he was in the chair.
Master of a brief, he built a planning team which achieved a deservedly fearsome reputation both for grey matter and accuracy of forecasting strategies.
Trevor Ferguson Sprott trained in London as an architect, his early career including a spell with Percy Johnson-Marshall & Associates, consultants specialising in urban design and regional planning. Here his capacity for strategic thinking emerged, and he was appointed to a staff job with Craigavon New Town Corporation.
But it was both the potential offered by the North Sea and the role which planning could play in harnessing economic opportunity which caught his imagination, and in 1972 he became an advisor to the North East Scotland Joint Planning Advisory Committee, occupying what proved a trailblazing role in devising co-ordinated planning for the offshore windfall for the old authorities of Aberdeen Corporation, and Aberdeen and Kincardine County Councils.
Politically shrewd, he recognised the value of the North Sea at a time when the potential was either not fully understood in Scotland, or else deliberately downplayed by Westminster politicians.
Appointed director of physical planning on the creation of Grampian Regional Council in 1975, he used his formidable character to ensure that planning outcomes ensued rather than any narrower political result wished by the then new Conservative administration.
Offence as defence proved a noted trademark, and with his considerable moral courage, he was unafraid to employ disruptive culture shock against scoring of mere political points. This outward persona stood at odds with his intensely private life. Likewise, his shunning of personal publicity lay at apparent odds with his gentle warmth to the media.
On this latter, he proved a good friend to those newsmen and women willing to operate on his quiet and courteous wavelength.
An engaging conversationalist, he thrived on discussion, and would debate at length without ever being less than amusing and polite.
He proved prophetic in his policy of care for the environment, with his novel landscape classification work, and the appointment of Ian Shepherd as Scotland’s first regional archaeologist. At the age of 55 in 1988, at the peak of his abilities, he both gained a much-merited OBE and suffered a massive stroke. He mastered speech again, and in 1990, set himself up as a private planning consultant, operating from his home in Cults, Aberdeen.
By 2006, however, his health deteriorated again, and he returned to his native Northern Ireland., settling in Bangor, Co Down, and increasing relied on medical care.
Trevor Sprott was predeceased by his wife Paddy Wilson, and is survived by his step-children Cathy, Rory and Clare, and his partner Elsie Bryce.
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