Tributes paid to sustainability figurehead Menzies

Walter Menzies, a pioneering figure in sustainable development in the region, has died aged 69.

Best known for his work in spearheading the Mersey Basin Campaign as chief executive, he was a passionate leader respected for his ability to draw different parts of the business community together.

In the years before many issues around sustainability were understood or taken seriously by developers and businesses, when the atmosphere could be enterprise-focused to the exclusion of all else, he played a major part in forcing sustainability onto the agenda through fiercely argued reason.

In 1983, Menzies was the founding executive director of the second Groundwork Trust to be established in the UK, in Macclesfield, becoming regional director for the North West and serving a 14-year spell.

Between 1997 and 2001 he was chief executive of Sustainability Northwest, before spending nine years with third sector organisation the Mersey Basin Campaign, which grew out of Michael Heseltine’s visits to Liverpool in the early 1980s, when he described the basin as “an affront to civilised society”. The campaign was dedicated to sustainable economic development through the improvement of waters, the regeneration of watersides and community involvement in those processes, and was considered complete in 2010.

During this time, between 2000 and 2005, Menzies was one of the first commissioners in the New Labour Government’s Sustainable Development Commission.

In more recent years he had served as a trustee of the Land Trust, was a visiting professor at the University of Liverpool’s School of Environmental Sciences and chaired the Manchester & Pennine Waterways Partnership.


Steve Turner, formerly head of smart cities at Manchester City Council and now digital cities lead at Arup, described Menzies as a “giant”. He said: “For those of us who cut our teeth on the wider sustainability agenda within the North West, Walter was our leader – a father figure.

“He helped shape and support a number of us in our early career, bringing a level of maturity to the debate, always grounded in robust intellectual rigour. As a result he became, uniquely at the time, widely respected amongst senior figures in the business and public sectors alike. This was reflected in his various roles and positions.

“He has built a powerful and lasting legacy, not just in the way he helped shape sustainability within projects and programmes across the North West, but in influencing the hearts and minds of the next generation.”

Stephen Gleave, consultant at WYG, said: “Walter was my mentor as an Urban Design student. He was one of the first to welcome me back to the North West in the early 90s. I was proud to join him as a Visiting Prof at Liverpool University. He was a challenging urbanist and ahead of times with sustainability.”

Menzies was also an occasional contributor of articles to Place North West. Place publisher Paul Unger described him as “one of the great characters of North West regeneration”.

“I have fond memories from freelance writing days of contributing to his Mersey Basin Campaign papers and books,” Unger said. “Energetic, cheeky, quick, clever, cutting at times but never ever dull.”

Clare Lydon, managing director of marketing consultancy Eleven, remembered one of her favourite quotes from Menzies: “Networking is only one letter away from not working!”

Michael Taylor, external affairs director at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “I loved Walter He was so warm, witty and generous. Any day was brightened by a call in Walter’s Caledonian drawl.”


Your Comments

Read our comments policy

This is sad news indeed, Walter was a great guy, and although I only knew him in recent years, he was someone I wish I had come into contact with much earlier, RIP.

By anon

Working with Walter was a fantastic experience – his energy, enthusiasm and vision made a huge difference to Canal & River Trust where he helped guide us through the formation of the new charity and had a huge impact in guiding our early years in the Notth West. He’s really going to be missed.

By David Baldacchino

I met Walter in 1978 when he was the Manager of Merseyside Improved Housing’s Community Projects Advisory Service. Through that in 1979 he became a founder member of Liverpool Community Technical Aid Service or Comtechsa for short.
Walter’s experience and insight were valuable assets in those formative years. His humour and perceptiveness cut through alot of superfluous verbiage and helped maintain the focus on things that really mattered. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. He will be sorely missed

By Nigel Mellor

I sat on the Mersey Basin Business Foundation and worked with him over many years. He also acted as an adviser to United Utilities and I am so sad to hear of his passing – he leaves a great legacy behind not least what he gave in his passion for one of the worlds great rivers

By Nick Taylor

What sad news! Walter was a great guy. I knew him from Groundwork, when I chaired the Manchester Board.
Our paths crossed frequently when he was Chief Exec of Sustainability NW. It was always a joy to meet him.
He was a pleasant man, passionate about his work. He will be sadly missed by many.

By Kath Robinson

What a loss! Just a brilliant and inspirational man that we will all miss so badly. Someone who truly saw the bigger picture and was always ready to challenge convention in pursuit making things better for his beloved Northwest. What’s more he always did it with passionate credibility – and importantly fun! His character and sharp wit will last with me forever.

By Ian MacArthur

What a shock. Walter was hyper intelligent, perceptive, witty, amiable, savvy, highly motivated and fun to work with all those years ago at MIH (Riverside). Bless you Walter, a ray of sunshine in dark times. Rest in peace.

By Peter Gommon

So sad. What an inspirational man. He leaves a terrific legacy.

By Colin Sykes ex BBC

Sorry to hear of Walter’s passing. Life was never dull when he was around and he put passion into his profession. Frank Kennedy, former regional campaigns coordinator, Friends of the Earth NW

By Anonymous

As a pioneer in Sustainability, Walter was light years ahead of his time.
He was also quick witted, unassuming and knowledgeable – an absolute delight on both a personal and professional basis.

December 27, 2018 at 8 54 pm by Robert Hough

By Robert Hough

In the very formative early days of groundwork, a key part of the success was the individuality of each of the particular directors. I was lucky enough to work with each of the first 5 trusts, and Walter was definitely “one of kind.” This has been an inspiring 40 year journey for quite a few of us, and it has been a delight to know Walter and to admire his energetic input over all those years.

By Chris Baines

Had the honour of working alongside Walter. He was a kind, thoughtful, generous person who was incredibly inspiring as a leader and full of integrity, intellect, humour and credibility. He was always ahead of the game in terms of partnership working and had the courage to stick his neck out and take risks. A true friend and confidante whilst working with him. He always encouraging about life and taking opportunities and making them yourself! A one off- surprised he was never more publically rewarded for his achievements, possibly they were to come as his death is untimely and will be a huge loss to many.

By Sarah Flynn

I first knew Walter through Groundwork, when it was based in Bollington, he was bright, helpful and always good for a laugh, it was only later that I realised the extent of his involvement in such important schemes as the Mersey Basin, all his allied Merseyside work, Canals & River Trust , I had thought of him as a local chap with extensive local knowledge who was always happy to listen, give advice where needed, and give practical help when possible. Most of all I valued his warmth, wicked sense of humour, boundless energy and interest in all things, local and beyond. A lovely man, and a great loss.

By Sylvia. Roberts

I first met walter when the mersey basin campaign changed direction and drive and was invited to become involved. Walter was an inspiration he had a way of attracting people to give their best at all times, came forward with helpful comments and revitalised the campaign to become the leading water side regeneration body in the world. Kath and i are So sorry to hear the sad news, sending love to the family

By Tom workman president liverpool sailing club

Related Articles

Sign up to receive the Place Daily Briefing

Join more than 13,000 property professionals and receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox


Join more than 13,000 property professionals and sign up to receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox.

By subscribing, you are agreeing to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

"*" indicates required fields

Your Job Field*
Other regional Publications - select below