Col. Jack T.Allston, FCIP, former President of the Town Planning Institute of Canada (1968), a founding member of the Atlantic Planners Institute (1968), and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Planners (1979), passed away peacefully in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on April 1, 2007, at age 83.With Jack’s passing, a very special era in the history of planning in Newfoundland and Labrador also passed. Jack grew up in Colchester, England. He was a veteran of WWII with the Royal Engineers, which provided the groundwork for his future career as a professional planner in Canada.
In 1954, at the invitation of Town Planner Stan Pickett, Jack Allston, his wife, Patricia, and two young sons crossed the Atlantic by ship and arrived through the narrows of St. John’s. On his voyage to Newfoundland, he was joined by Ray Balston and both planners were met at dockside by Sir Brian Dunfield and Bishop Abraham. Jack would later remark fondly that “the law and the church came to greet them upon their arrival to Newfoundland.” Their arrival marked the introduction of town and land use planning in Newfoundland and Labrador. Col. Allston and Ray Balston were first employed as planners with the City of St. John’s in the old City Hall building on Duckworth Street. Shortly thereafter, Jack was transferred to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador where he worked as Director of Planning and set up shop in the “Provincial Planning Office”.
In his long tenure as Director, a sense of military order was evident in Jack’s strategic approach to planning throughout the Province. Jack introduced the “Urban and Rural Planning Act” which laid out the legislative framework for planning for community and countryside planning. The legislation was strongly influenced by the British planning system. New planning concepts were introduced, such as: regional, municipal, and local area plans; protected road regulations for the Province’s highway system; a public hearing process; and a system of development appeals. Centralized control of the system came through the Provincial Planning Office (PPO) where community plans and “model development regulations” were developed and adopted for many of the over 300 communities throughout the Province. This brought a uniformity and consistency of approach to planning and development which previously did not exist. The PPO was a provincial model for the provision of planning services to small communities. Jack Allston’s strategic and methodical approach so impressed Premier Joseph R. Smallwood that he would involve the PPO in most major initiatives and would seek Jack’s advice on province-wide matters. Under Jack’s guidance, many a planner learned the art and practice of planning and spread this experience across Canada. It was often said that Jack came to Newfoundland and Labrador at the time when the Province needed a “visionary”. Jack was involved with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of which he was a Commanding Officer from 1965-1968. In 1967, he initiated the Signal Hill National Historic Site Tattoo. He was Aide-de-camp to Governor General, the Right Honourable Roland Michener in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Jack retired from the PPO in 1986, but his interest in history and youth sustained his involvement in the Tattoo, the Newfoundland Regiment Museum, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Sites Association. Jack was active in the church community. He served as a Eucharistic Minister and was an advisor for the Papal Visit in 1984.
Jack’s planning legacy lives on in the improvements to the quality of community life that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians enjoy today.