John Lavery, 1953-2024

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We deal with almost 1000 cases a year assisting communities, groups and individuals in protecting their local spaces and paths in all parts of England and Wales. Can you help us by joining as a member?

Our former trustee John Lavery has died aged 70.

John became involved in the society after he retired from his post as a lawyer with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

John Lavery, 1953-2024. Photo: Open Spaces Society

He was one of our trustees from 2013 to 2019, and for a time our parliamentary agent, studying the private bills deposited each year and advising us on whether to petition. He also followed Bernard Selwyn as our London representative, helping members with their cases. He assisted Long Live Southbank in saving the popular Undercroft for recreation including skateboarding in 2014, and Friends of Finsbury Park’s (sadly unsuccessful) fight against the Wireless Festival there in 2017.


John had a humble start in life; he grew up in Todmorden, Calderdale, the oldest of four children. His father died when he was about 14, and his mother had to go out to work; there was ice on the insides of the windows in winter. He went to Calder High School where he was on the chess team—he remained an excellent player throughout his life.

After studying law as a mature student in London he earned a frugal living from various jobs. He gained a law degree and worked for private solicitors before

landing a position with the Official Solicitor, and then moved to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) which became part of Defra. There he worked on issues of interest to the society, such as the Commons Bill in 2005–06, and he specialised in implementing difficult EU legislation.


John told interesting stories from MAFF days about the cases he dealt with, many involving trawlers and illegal catches. On one occasion a trawler crew spotted that they were being followed by a fisheries protection vessel and dumped the catch over the side. John dealt with this by relying on the ancient principle of omnia praesumuntur contra spoliatorem (a presumption against the thief, in this case the destroyer of evidence).

With a great sense of humour, and a sharp intelligence, John was a member of a puzzle circle. He was keen on Apple computers, and on Brompton bicycles several of which he owned, and for which he recommended adaptations.

John bore his final illness (cancer) and the many treatments and hospital stays with cheerful stoicism. He remained active to the end, always taking a deep interest in our work and offering his help and support should we need it.

We miss him.

Header image: Rory Tucker

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