Chris Skinner 1958-2017

Christopher Frank Skinner

 Chris Skinner died on 14 February on his 59th birthday at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, close to his home in Hethersett.

Chris had been in hospital since late December suffering from Guillain Barré syndrome and his sudden death was as a result of complications.

Chris moved to Norwich as a child with his parents, brother and sister and thereafter made Norfolk his home. He went to school in Norwich where he studied mathematics, physics and chemistry A levels before attending Nottingham University to read law. Following professional examinations Chris became a trainee solicitor at Norwich City Council. Chris had already taken up his great loves of swimming, cycling and running and his training contract was extended because of his insistence in running again too soon after suffering a broken ankle, not once, but twice.

After qualification as a solicitor Chris went to live with his beloved Aunt Joan and worked for Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. Nine months later he was back, as Assistant Solicitor at Waveney District Council in North Suffolk. It was here that he made his first compulsory purchase order in relation to a historic net drying store, one of the last remains of the Lowestoft fishing village that had suffered so badly during the 1939 -1945 war and in the 1953 flood. It was here too that Chris started developing his fantastic ability to combine his expertise in planning, property and litigation and to use the law in innovative and unconventional ways to solve practical problems.

Chris moved to Great Yarmouth Borough Council in 1986 and remained there until joining nplaw in 2010.  Chris undertook a variety of jobs whilst at Great Yarmouth, but the unifying theme of them was that he carried out case work in order to make a difference to the lives of people who lived in the Borough. In the 1990s there was a lack of housing for many of the worst off in our society. Chris recognised that at the same time there were also many houses in Great Yarmouth that were empty. Thus started a real campaign to get these houses occupied by people who needed homes and this led to an almost unique, at the time, approach to using compulsory purchase powers to solve relatively small, local but enduring problems. This led, over the years, to working on compulsory purchase for large regeneration projects and other schemes that would make life better for others. Chris also worked really hard to reach out to other local authorities and he, with a very small team of other lawyers, began to undertake work for authorities around the country.

On the creation, much encouraged by Chris, who had envisaged such a service since the 1980s, of a shared legal service between local authorities in Norfolk, Chris moved to nplaw as the Head of Planning, Environment and Regeneration. He became Deputy Practice Director in 2015 and was appointed Practice Director on 1 January this year. He continued to work for the residents in Norfolk. By bringing in work and income from other parts of the public sector he could support other critical work being carried out by Norfolk local authorities.

For 11 years Chris created and ran a company which provided legal training to the public sector. The company was very successful at providing training targeted at the public sector and had a great reputation across a wide range of subjects. Chris always arranged bi-annual get togethers which invariably included a bouncy castle for use by the staff’s children and by Chris.

He was a very practical lawyer, no job was too lowly for him and equally no one was too junior or inexperienced to carry out high level work with his support. Chris wasn’t just practical, he had a clear, steely mind when thinking about legal issues and was the writer of many articles on his specialist subjects. Whist in hospital Chris had four articles published and in this week of his death he was on the front page of the Empty Homes Network. Chris also lectured extensively on the subject of compulsory purchase and nplaw now has, probably, the largest compulsory purchase practice in England.

Chris was a committed Christian and his family was hugely important to him. He is survived by his wife, Sue, and two children, Tom, also a solicitor, and Jess, a teacher. He was never happier than when spending time with them.

Jane Linley, Solicitor, nplaw

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Comments

It's a shock and I'm very sad to hear the news about Chris's death. I did not know him well but chatted to him at a couple of empty property events. He was very approachable and helpful and we were looking forwarding to working with him as we develop our service. He was clearly highly valued and I'm sure will be greatly missed. Condolences to his colleagues and family.

David Clough (Empty Homes Team Manager - Cornwall Council)

So sad to hear the news about Chris. I have met him a few times and exchanged emails providing me with great advice. My condolences to his family and friends.

Chris was kind enough to visit the Herts Beds and Bucks (HBBF) Empty Homes Forum on a number of occasions to provide us with his invaluable insight and knowledge.  His training and support provided the impetus for members to take their first steps towards carrying out complex empty homes enforcement, and in doing so helped us create the kind of change we strive for on a daily basis.  His experience and warm personality will be truly missed.

Janice Edmond, Chair HBBF

J Edmond

I have been forwarded the very sad news about the death of Chris Skinner.

I had met and know Chris as a result of my role at SHDC. Chris came and did some training for us last year at SHDC. Also, Chris has been, at various other times, of great assistance to my staff here around issues to do with Empty Homes and has been someone we have turned to on many occasions for help advice and assistance.

Professionally; I found Chris had enormous knowledge of a difficult subject and had a real gift in making, this difficult subject, just seem that little more easy to manage and do.

Personally, I found Chris to be a real gentleman; both easy to talk to and engage with, and having a genuine giving personality.

He will be missed by many but not forgotten; as his work, most certainly here at SHDC, has meant that how we deal with Empty Homes has become significantly better.

Can I offer my condolences to his family and colleagues at work, in this most difficult of times.

With my sincere best wishes.

Phil Stacey | Senior Housing Advice Officer | South Holland District Council

I've just returned to work after a lengthy absence so have only just seen this. I want to add my condolences to Chris' family and friends of which there must be many. I met Chris several times in my line of work any found him to be a very warm guy who was always willing to help those who sought his expertise. So sad to hear this news.

Neil Dunk

Neil Dunk