Colleagues both current and former are saddened to announce the sudden and untimely passing of Joe Cunnane on Thursday 15th February at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Having arrived from the Republic of Ireland in the mid-1970’s, Joe, never Joseph unless to family, was employed as a Planning Officer at the London Borough’s of Hackney, Hounslow and Brent, where he laid the foundations for a career in Development Management that continued for nearly 50 years. He enjoyed in equal measure meeting the public, applicant’s and developers, and negotiating solutions to planning applications that would otherwise have been unsuccessful, and in modern day local government practice he always lamented the loss of this approach. During this early period he made many business acquaintances and friendships in planning and related fields, that have stood the test of time, and those established relationships were often called upon to the present day.
However, like so many of his compatriots from Ireland, Joe was keen to make his own way, and in 1985 he went on to found J. C. Cunnane Associates, using a spare bedroom at his home in Twickenham as an office. This company later became Cunnane Town Planning LLP when a partnership began with a former local government colleague, and the company later established offices in London and Manchester. He was immensely proud in 1995 to be a co-founder of Cunnane Stratton Reynolds Ltd in Dublin, and new offices were soon established in Dublin as well as Cork and Galway. The business there continues to thrive.
In his day-to-day business practice, Joe was insightful and often mercurial, and there is no doubt that his drive and enthusiasm was instrumental in taking the business forwards. His advice to client’s was succinct and accurate, and sometimes candid, but they were always encouraged by his ‘can do’ approach and enthusiasm for the task in hand. As the business continued to grow from its own offices in Teddington, there was rarely a day when there wasn’t something happening, and more often than not it was Joe who was the motivating influence.
If town planning is an art form, then Joe Cunnane was one of its consummate performers on the stage that was a Planning Inquiry or Planning Committee. That was where he excelled, and he was always well prepared and able to think on his feet. Joe had a sharp mind and delivered the case on behalf of his clients with eloquence, composure and brevity. Joe was held in particularly high regard by the members of the Planning Committee at the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, where he was sometimes referred to as ‘the other planning department’ in the Borough.
He was equally at home in Public Inquiries and Hearings, and especially enjoyed working with the best known Planning Counsel from all the leading chambers in London. There were many occasions over the years when he returned from an inquiry and regaled colleagues with tales of extraordinary and sometimes hilarious events that had occurred during proceedings, such as when a client set up his own portable copier, complete with mini generator, because he objected to the LPA’s copying charges. There was also an occasion when an objector was recorded on an Inspector’s Attendance List on successive days as a Mr and a Ms, but perhaps those were very different times. As always, an event became more extraordinary with each telling.
He was also a ‘closet’ barrister himself, and took a lot of ribbing when bundles of documents tied in pink ribbon appeared on his desk. He thoroughly enjoyed appearing at proceedings as expert witness and advocate, being particularly adept at cross-examining Council witnesses and objectors when the need arose.
His undoubted success in business over the years was sadly never matched by the performance of his beloved home county. Sadly, like so many others from that part of the world, he never did get to witness Mayo win an All Ireland football title.
In more recent years Joe worked from his home in Marlborough, a listed building of course, and he is survived by his second wife, Yvonne, and two daughters.
Joe’s work in the planning profession has touched a great many lives, and many of his former staff in various offices and positions and different walks of life, have benefitted from his advice, encouragement, and mentoring. It filled him with great pride that so many of his proteges have gone on to succeed in their chosen careers.
Joe has certainly left a massive impression upon the lives of many people with whom he was involved in professionally and he will be greatly missed.
May he Rest in Peace.
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