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Dennis Kirby

Development executive of two new Scottish towns.

Born: April 4, 1923; Died: December 7, 2013.

Dennis Kirby, who has died aged 90, was a wartime naval fighter pilot, then worked as a colonial administrator in Africa and completed his distinguished career as managing director of the East Kilbride and Irvine Development Corporations. He brought to both the latter appointments a drive and energy that ensured the success of both challenging projects.

He was appointed to East Kilbride in 1963 and was responsible for attracting businesses to the new town. The development dated back to the difficult post-war years when the Clyde Valley Regional Plan allocated sites to house the overspill from Glasgow. East Kilbride was the first of five such revolutionary schemes.

When Mr Kirby took over, the national economy was facing problems: there was a credit squeeze and industry did not have the resources to expand. Attracting industry and manpower to East Kilbride was not easy.

He remained positive, however, and particularly supported plans for building good housing for families. He also remained practical: he knew his target of building 1300 new homes annually required there being jobs in the area. In 1966, he told The Herald: "There is still keen interest in East Kilbride from industrialists at home and abroad. Inquiries are pouring in. We have opened 95,000 sq ft of factory space in the last six months and more is under construction."

He oversaw the construction of several premises including shops, factories and social amenities such as play groups, churches and schools. Mr Kirby had some confrontational meetings with local and national government - not least in 1966 when his plan to build a multi-storey block of flats was opposed by Lanark County Council.

In 1967 he moved to oversee the development at Irvine, an altogether larger and even more complex project. It entailed creating and managing a new town of 120,000 people on 20 square miles of historic Ayrshire coastline. Amidst local unrest, the new corporation controversially demolished and redeveloped Fullarton in the old Irvine town. But Mr Kirby put in hand extensive development of open spaces - especially behind the harbour which had become a wasteland.

He was always realistic and avoided making over optimistic predictions. In 1971 he drew attention to the absence of strikes in the Irvine area and said: "Our greatest asset is the people who really want to work. In the Common Market, good labour is like gold - hard to find and expensive. Our planning has been done on a firm regional basis."

Mr Kirby's success with these two developments was recognised in 1972 when he was seconded to the Department of Trade and Industry in London where he was responsible for promoting investment and industrial growth in Scotland. In 1974, he joined the European Investment Bank and for 12 years he controlled large loans connected with projects in the North Sea.

He was born in Hull and after attending the local grammar school, he volunteered for the Fleet Arm in 1941. While he suffered a number of accidents, he successfully flew more than 650 hours on 17 types of aircraft mostly in Africa on anti-submarine patrols. He qualified to fly the Seafire, the naval version of the Spitfire. In 1944, flying from the carrier Furious, he took part in the vital attacks on the crippled Tirpitz and other enemy shipping off Norway.

After the war, he joined the colonial service and spent 16 years in Sierra Leone, rising to the post of permanent secretary in the Ministry of Communications in 1961. The same year, he was appointed MVO for helping to organise the Queen's visit to the colony. He is survived by his wife.

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