Alastair Hanton: a tribute

Alastair Hanton, who died last month, helped to found Transport for New Homes and was a wise and insightful presence on our Steering Group and at our events. Stephen Joseph has written this tribute to our friend.

I’ve known Alastair for over 30 years – when I became director of Transport 2000 (later Campaign for Better Transport) in 1988, Alastair was a board member and later became Treasurer. He remained on the board for many years and even after he stepped down was still involved in the work of the organisation. I think the setting up of a charitable trust for Transport 2000, which initially ran alongside the campaigning arm, was his idea.

When I first met him, Alastair had only recently retired from his work as a banker, but he didn’t take retirement as an excuse to sit back. He plunged into a wide range of campaigning organisations, and was a real entrepreneur in terms of developing existing ones and setting new ones up. He was responsible for the setting up of the Environmental Transport Association, which is still going, and was a moving spirit behind Action on Lorry Danger, a coalition of groups concerned to reduce the dangers of lorries on the road. He was a leading light in many other campaigns – the London Cycling Campaign, Living Streets (previously the Pedestrians Association), Roadpeace, and Cycling UK (previously the Cyclists’ Touring Club). A consistent theme in his work with these organisations was road safety, or, more accurately, reducing road danger, and he was also involved in campaigns such as ’20 is Plenty’, Slower Speeds Initiative and Vision Zero. And I haven’t even mentioned his many other campaigning issues – on ethical investment, fair trade and development, for instance – where he was equally influential.

Alastair was also very involved in transport and environmental campaigning in London, and specifically in Southwark and Dulwich, where he and his wife Margaret and his family lived. He was a mainstay of the London Amenity and Transport Association (LATA), and its battles in the late 1980s against renewed threats of road building in London. He was active in the Dulwich Society, Southwark Living Streets and other local campaign groups.

At Transport 2000 / Campaign for Better Transport Alastair was deeply involved in the Transport Taxation Group, for which he was secretary. This group was arguably one of the most influential of Transport 2000’s activities – it worked up practical proposals for reform of company car tax, which were adopted by the Treasury, and also for what became the workplace parking levy, so far only applied in Nottingham. Alastair was responsible for drafting and developing proposals on these and other transport taxation issues, including on aviation which he also saw as a critical environmental issue.

The Foundation for Integrated Transport’s existence also owed much to Alastair, who helped Dr Simon Norton with all the legal and financial work involved in setting it up in 2014. Alastair kept an eye on the finances of the Foundation but was also practically involved in many of the projects FIT funded and encouraged some to bring forward applications.

 He was particularly involved in the Transport for New Homes project, encouraging Jenny Raggett and others involved in it to keep pushing on this important issue and going on some of the Transport for New Homes site visits, even in his nineties. FIT trustee and Transport for New Homes co-ordinator Jenny Raggett said that Alastair “always encouraged any new ideas despite his very great age. He thrived, in fact, on novel approaches when it came to campaigns and wouldn’t dream of ever giving up”.

Dr Lynn Sloman, another FIT Trustee, has summed up Alastair’s character better than I can:

“He was always so supportive, generous and encouraging, that when he asked you to do something – with a kind twinkle in his eye – it felt impossible to say no… He was modest and unassuming, so that when he was in the office of one of the charities or organisations he was involved with, he was as likely to be making the tea for the staff as having big strategic discussions. But he had a sharp mind and excellent judgment, and his advice and guidance, given gently and with a smile, was always worth having. Alastair’s quiet, determined commitment to make the world a better place, one small step at a time, was an inspiration and there could be no better example of a good life, well-lived. It feels like a privilege for all of us, as FIT trustees, to have known and worked with him.”

We will all miss him and his advice and support, and, above all, his kindness, a word that I think sums him up best.

Stephen Joseph