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Remembering Richard Clift (1933-2020)

Remembering Richard Clift (1933-2020)

Richard Clift with Lord True, former Leader of Richmond Council; and at a happy celebration

Richard Clift, a long-serving member of the Teddington Society and former Convenor of our Planning Group, died on November 10th at the age of 87. We were saddened to hear the news, and send our heartfelt condolences to his family.

Here, John Demont, our Vice-President and past Chairman, pays tribute to his friend and colleague:

I first got to know Richard 20 years ago when he was Convenor of the Society’s Planning Group. He had taken over from Mike Foss, which was a hard act to follow, but Richard proved a very worthy and impressive successor.

He was very meticulous in the role and highly regarded and respected by the other members of the Group. It was smaller then and this meant the workload was more concentrated on the fewer members of the team. It is obvious from the comments of the surviving members that Richard did more than his fair share . He led by example and in those days the technology and communications we have now were not available.

There is an immense amount of work in dealing with the dozens of planning applications which come in each month and Richard made sure they were all dealt with, often doing all the correspondence and toing and froing himself. Some schemes, of course, are very complex and time consuming and at the time Teddington was undergoing some major changes. The Normansfield Hospital site was being developed, Teddington Studios were going, M&S were coming to the High Street, Tesco in Broad Street was being upgraded, the Clarence Hotel and Royal Oak sites were being altered, and a new Causeway Point building was planned. I’m sure there must have been others!

In all these challenges Richard quietly but firmly got on with the job, earning the respect of all those who came in contact with him – and this included the borough’s planners, who held him in high regard.

I found these comments from him in his Tidings report of Autumn 2003: “The aims of the Planning Group have always been to conserve without obstructing sensible progress and to promote imaginative design where possible. We have worked to oppose the more outrageous schemes and to improve and refine others.” He concludes by saying, “we shall never please everyone but on balance the Group can claim at least part of the credit for keeping Teddington an attractive place in which to live.”

I think – and indeed know from personal experience – that he claimed rightly. It was a privilege to know and work with Richard until long after those Executive Committee days, and we often saw him and his late wife Jane on a Sunday morning at St Mary’s. Richard was a lovely man, well liked and respected by all. He left his mark on our town, in so many ways “Helping to make Teddington even better”.

• Richard was born in Weymouth. He attended St Edward’s School, Oxford, and studied history at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He joined HM Diplomatic Service, serving in the Far East, Malaysia and Northern Ireland before ending his diplomatic career as Ambassador in Sierra Leone and finally adviser during the handover of Hong Kong.

After his retirement Richard settled in Teddington, and was a well-known member of the community: as a member of the Teddington Society; working as a furniture restorer; volunteering for the Twickenham CAB and Richmond AID; and as a member of the Kingston Choral Society for more than 40 years. He will be greatly missed by us all.

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