OBITUARY | Rob Turley

Rob Turley, who died from cancer earlier this month, is well known amongst the planning and development profession as the founder of and driving force behind the independent and national planning consultancy, Robert Turley Associates, now known as Turley.

Rob Turley established his planning practice in 1983 after leaving local government, and, over the course of the next 25 years, steered it to become one of the biggest in the country with 200 staff across 10 regional offices.

Before founding Robert Turley Associates, he worked at Manchester City Council and Warrington Council. His first office was in Withington, Manchester. Urban Design was recognised as a distinct skill set and woven into the fabric of the business, reflecting Rob’s understanding of place, learnt at Manchester University Planning School in the early 1970s, under the tutelage of Winston Parr and Bertram Gilbert who, along with others, contributed to what was a degree course then designed to provide a sound and broad understanding of the social, economic, and spatial purpose and potential of land use planning. Rob served as chairman of Turley until retiring from the business in 2008.

He was always prepared to give something back to the planning school at Manchester University. He was a member of the advisory board for many years, established an annual student prize, provided advice to shape the education of planning students, making them more employable and enthusing generations of planning students about the excitement of working in the private sector, at a time when it was much smaller than it is now.

Rob Turley holds an almost unique place in planning consultancy. Not only did he pioneer the establishment of a truly planning-led private sector consultancy, but he also pioneered employee ownership and a philanthropic culture. Rob was a consummate planning professional who was able to communicate his enthusiasm for planning to all he met.

Rob was also a highly respected business person who led by example and set the tone, which was invariably calm, considered and scrupulously fair. This was all the more remarkable for the fact that, whatever its considerable merits, the Manchester University undergraduate course of the early 1970s was not one that was designed to instil entrepreneurship in its students. Rob was one of life’s great encouragers, who recognised that everyone had a contribution to make.  Everyone was asked for their thoughts, which were then debated over an Italian meal, one of his favourite ways of discussing business.

For Rob it was always more than business, believing that business should be based upon relationships, the hallmark of which was respect and integrity.

He brought his business skills, his vision, drive and commitment to anything in which he was involved, no more so than at West Didsbury and Chorlton AFC, where he literally played out his passion for amateur football. Rob joined the club in 1973 and made his name in the Lancashire and Cheshire League as a prolific centre forward scoring well over 400 goals. He was a tenacious, competitive and skilful player, reluctant to give the ball away, even to his own side, qualities that were evident even in a mixed football match held as part of a University Field Week in Mainz.

Rob was a committed and very active Christian, believing that work and faith go hand in hand and that there should be no sacred/secular divide. He passionately believed that planning should be a Godly process as it involved human creativity, using the earth’s resources wisely, creating beauty and space in an environment where humans and the natural world can thrive. What he most enjoyed doing was revitalising places that, in his words were “tired or messed up” and that this truly reflected the gospel message of restoring humanity and breathing new life into all of us through faith in Jesus Christ.

Rob was born in Belfast on 29 May 1950. He moved to Manchester in 1969 as an undergraduate to study Town & Country Planning at the School of Planning at Manchester University. In 1971 he was joined at the university by his brother Stuart, studying economics. At university, Rob met his wife-to-be Isabel, a medical student. Rob and Isabel were married in 1974 and set up home in Rusholme, not far from Maine Road, then home of Manchester City FC, who Rob would follow avidly for the rest of his life as an adopted Mancunian.

Robert James Turley BA (Hons) MRTPI (29.05.1950 – 05.05.2016). Survived by his wife Isabel and three children.

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Very sad. Clearly a very talented man with a lasting legacy. RIP

By Up North

I knew him from church and he was a gentleman in every sense of the word

By Ian Mason

Church connection – His look of ‘ calm and collected’ was commendable. Thank you for your contribution to ‘Manchester Smiles Better ‘- a good legacy, Rest in Perfect Peace.

By Sarah Ajiboye

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