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Obituary: Mike Cottell - a warm-hearted and modest past President

Mike Cottell

Mike Cottell: ICE President 1992-93

Mike Cottell, ICE President from 1992-93, sadly died on 10 February. Mike spent the whole of his professionally career involved in highways and transport. He was a county surveyor of the old school.

He retired as county surveyor of Kent in 1991, having led a 1,000 strong department with a capital and revenue programme of £210M Earlier roles included county surveyor of Northampton and deputy surveyor East Suffolk. He acted as secretary and later president of the County Surveyors Society, and was chairman of the Association of Municipal ­Engineers board at ICE.

Mike left school at 16. His father thought his natural talents were suited to civil engineering, and he was placed as an assistant under agreement with Hampshire County Council, studying on day release at University College Southampton and obtaining top marks in all subjects. He subsequently became an ICE Member at the minimum age of 25.

Mike took an early interest in the application of computers to highway design while working on the Oxford Western Bypass and the M4. His paper on the Valour suite of programs at East Suffolk earned him a medal from the Institution of Municipal Engineers.

As a chief officer Mike worked hard to establish an efficient county surveyor’s department with good management systems. He selected good people and expected high standards. An apparent severity of approach, however, hid a dry sense of humour and a warm heart. He was loyally respected by those who worked for him and by the elected members he served.

As a member of the construction industry sector group of the National Economic Development Office, Mike produced a report, A New Approach to Road Planning, and subsequently chaired the first two planning conferences bringing together all interested parties in a road scheme to reach a consensus on need and the best solution prior to the statutory procedures.

During his presidential year Mike spoke with feeling that not only should the engineer analyse problems and come up with solutions, but also advocate ideas for the public good, in a manner acceptable to the public and its politicians.

On retirement Mike remained committed to the ICE for many years as a staff pension fund trustee. He also joined Travers Morgan as an executive director, was a trustee of the Rees Jeffrys Road Fund, a lieutenant-colonel in the Engineer and Logistics Staff Corps, and a liveryman of both the Worshipful Company of Engineers and the Worshipful Company of Paviors.

Mike was awarded the OBE in 1989 and elected to the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1990. For all his achievements, Mike was a modest man whose company will be greatly missed. He was devoted to his wife Joan who predeceased him; he is survived by their two sons, Paul and Bob, and five grandchildren.

  • Robin Wilson preceded Mike Cottell as ICE President

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