Chairman 1987-97, President from 2017
It was with great sadness that we learned of the death on 30 May of one of KTS’s most active and long-serving supporters.
David and Nina moved to Lewes Crescent in 1974 after he retired from a career as a chartered surveyor. Clearly he sought an active retirement and wanted to make a difference to the the physical state of the Enclosures and buildings of Kemp Town. His knowledge of the houses in the Square, Crescent and Terraces and of their residents was encyclopaedic, and his recall of detail unfailing. David effectively transformed the Kemp Town Society from a social network to an organisation with matters of conservation and planning at its heart.
He had a businessman’s eye for money-saving improvements, and a conservationist’s sense of what is appropriate and what is unacceptable in an area of such historical importance and interest as the one we all enjoy here. The Marina, the Madeira Terraces and most recently the Gasworks site all engaged his attention and critical eye. Furthermore the legacy of his generosity and hard work is visible to us all In the form of the railings to the south of the Estate, as another chairman, Paul Phillips, recounts below.
Above all, David was one to speak his mind. He was never slow to pick up the telephone when he felt something needed to be done, or simply to have a chat. I shall miss his thoughts on his time at school, what the council need to do now, weed eradication, where to buy shirts, the charms of Lanzarote off-season, and who had just moved in next door. He was too an indefatigable correspondent. His letters to subsequent chairmen of KTS and his views on how the effectiveness of the council might be improved have become the stuff of legend. Some are reproduced below. It is easy to hear his voice of authority and experience in these suggestions, sometimes radical, often imaginative, always worth listening to.
His very presence around Kemp Town will be sorely missed: he cut a striking figure with his smart shirts, shoes and hats, stopping to chat with old friends and getting to know those who had just arrived. He was indeed the embodiment of charm and courtesy. We send our condolences to Nina, his devoted wife of some 47 years.
Paul Phillips, Chairman 1997-2007, writes:
“David Morris was the most ardent improver of the Kemp Town Estate. He was passionate to give it the splendour it now displays. To me he is the grandfather of its modern era and its benefactor in-chief.
“It was David who tracked down the freeholder of the Gardens and purchased them for the greater good of all on the Estate. This act alone commands my deepest respect, not only for its commercial alertness (he was a successful property auctioneer), but because he then handed the Gardens on to become the very centre and embodiment of the Estate, with the splendid Regency houses round them. Later his magnificent generosity allowed us to re-erect the railings on the sea-facing side of the Gardens, completing the whole enclosure and the visual impact of the Estate.
“His example was one of the core drivers of my own efforts to uphold the Estate in the planning challenges it faced during my tenure: the potential tall towers in the Marina, the siting of rubbish bins and, sadly, the wrangling over the restoration of the railings. David would also spur me on in person, writing many letters to me over the years filled with prudent thoughts and suggestions on the matters at hand. He never ceased to think about how the Estate could be made better, more impressive and more beautiful.
Best wishes, David: A selection of his correspondence
“The unsightly mess outside certain homes on Friday mornings continues. Could someone take this on? It really needs a letter to the offending freeholder, agent or occupier requesting they make similar arrangements for their Environmental rubbish [to] everyone else, to maintain high Standards in a Grade 1 C(onservation) A(rea).
“Could someone else, a cyclist perhaps, be appointed to liaise with the Council to obtain more Cycle racks in suitable locations, so they do not have to use the railings (Houses & Garden) & spoil the CA?
“When the [Dukes Mound] Slopes were sold to the Council they were requested to be maintained in good order. The Council have done a good job to improve the planting along the top path (gravel) South of the A259 but the walls & beds below this are in an appalling state. Perhaps another “believer” would volunteer to liaise with the Council on this.
Ideas to improve Council efficiency:
“Your quiet policy of reducing costs is to be applauded. There must be many people in the City who have ideas for cutting costs and improving efficiency. Why not offer prizes to those whose suggestions are adopted?
“Do we need to replace the CEO immediately? Could his work be shared by 3 or 4 Senior Officers for the next year? They could be offered a substantial bonus if they perform well….
“Getting people to work at their optimum capacity is not easy, but if they achieve it their performance improves. Everyone can work 10% harder which normally leads to staff reductions of 10% which is usually achieved with natural wastage & early retirement. This policy can be repeated over 2 or 3 years depending on the capacity of each person…
“The Council could do an audit of its property holdings in order to find out whether they are necessary and whether they can be exploited. Is there under-used accommodation which can be given up & staff transferred to other Sites, such as the Town Hall? If staffing levels can be reduced & efficiency increased, it may be possible to give up rented accommodation.
“Are there sites such as roundabouts, Gardens, shelters on the Promenade etc, which a sponsor might take in return for a fee?
“The Hotel & Restaurant business could be helped by offering them special signs for an annual fee (as in French tourist towns)…
“PS Lease the Black Rock site to a hotel company, some of which are still expanding. The Reading Room is a black spot & as its condition worsens it costs money to keep clean. It needs a Cafe Tenant who would take it off your hands providing they got a reasonable rent-free period. Liabilities need to be turned into assets.”
David and Nina’s Christmas card last year featured a beautiful array of wild flowers photographed in the Enclosures. Why not make it a competition, he suggested, to see who could name them all, and give a prize? Yet another idea to encourage people to come together as neighbours, and to appreciate the lovely setting they lived in.