TRIBUTES have been paid to a former York planning chief who has died, aged 76, following a courageous battle against Parkinson's disease.

Eric Pearson was the first person ever to hold the post of City Planning Officer for York - and stayed in the job for 17 years, during which time he was credited with regenerating the city centre.

Originally from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, he went into local government straight after leaving Wath-upon-Dearne Grammar School.

He then passed the Town Planning Institute examinations by attending evening classes in Leeds.

His work for local authorities began with the West Riding County Council and he then moved to Cumberland, Doncaster and Sunderland.

After nine years with Sunderland Corporation, he moved to York in 1971.

Mr Pearson retired from his role at City of York Council in 1988.

He was involved in many major projects to redevelop the city centre - such as Coppergate, Aldwark, Monkgate and the Stonegate Arcade.

When he retired, aged 56, he told the then Yorkshire Evening Press: "It's been a privilege and a very rewarding part of my life."

He was praised for his hard work and dedication.

Former Lord Mayor Clive Kay said at the time: "He has refurbished the city of York. I can't pay him higher tribute than that. It was magnificent working with him - a great privilege."

Roger Armistead, development control area team leader at the council, said: "Eric was York's one and only chief planning officer and was influential in shaping the modern development of the city.

"He worked to set up York's conservation areas and was instrumental in creating pedestrian- only areas in the city centre.

"He was enthusiastic about his work and helped raise the profile of planning and conservation in York."

After his retirement, Mr Pearson led a campaign to persuade City of York Council to reject Land Securities' proposals for a £60 million extension to the Coppergate Centre, alongside local architects Tom Adams and Matthew Laverack.

Mr Laverack said today: "This city owes a huge debt of gratitude to Eric Pearson, who has died following a courageous battle against Parkinson's disease.

"It is thanks to York's former head of planning that the juggernaut of the first Coppergate extension development was eventually stopped.

"When the first scheme to build right up to Clifford's Tower was unveiled, there was barely a handful of individuals who spoke out, and that group, which became known as York Alliance, would not have existed without Eric Pearson who made the first critical phone calls to gather together a small band of like-minded citizens.

"Eric Pearson should rightly be remembered as the man who saved Clifford's Tower. It was a privilege to know him and work with him. He was a true gentleman."

During his spare time, Mr Pearson was a handyman and amateur photographer. He is survived by his wife, Brenda, and their three children, Claire, Victoria and Daniel.

Mastermind behind city's schemes

AS City Planning Officer, Eric Pearson masterminded many of the influential decisions regarding the layout of the city which are still in place today. These included Stonegate, Gillygate and the creation of the Coppergate Centre.


Mr Pearson masterminded the scheme to make Stonegate a pedestrianised area.

His policy included using second-hand paving stones and creating characteristic entrances to highlight adjoining streets.

Coppergate Centre

Mr Pearson was hugely involved in much of the public consultation regarding the Coppergate centre.

After the selection of the winning design, he backed the minor adjustments that were required to the £12.5 million centre.

Upon its completion, he called it "unashamedly part of the 20th century."


When Mr Pearson entered the council as city planning officer, a debate was already well underway about the future of the Gillygate-Bootham area of the city.

Policy suggested that the area should be demolished to create an open space in which to view the City Walls.

He publicly disagreed with the demolition plans and urged councillors to Save Gillygate.