Tributes paid to former Riverside Chairman

Riverside pays tribute to Professor John Tarn OBE who sadly passed away on Sunday (November 8).

Deborah Shackleton and Professor John Tarn


Professor John Tarn OBE, former Chairman of The Riverside Group, has passed away, aged 85. He had been unwell for some time.

During a long and distinguished career as Professor of Architecture at the University of Liverpool, and later Pro-Vice Chancellor, he joined the Board of Merseyside Improved Houses in 1992, which then became Riverside Housing Association Limited, and became its Chairman in 1998. After adopting a Group structure in 2001, he became the first Chairman of The Riverside Group Ltd, a position he retained until he retired in 2010.

Over his 18 years’ service, Professor Tarn led Riverside through a period of remarkable growth, during which the Group outgrew its North West origins to become one of the country’s largest providers of affordable housing, also operating in Scotland. During this time Riverside also diversified, developing a major care and support business, whilst generating commercial income through a housebuilding subsidiary and joint ventures.

Paying tribute Carol Matthews, Group Chief Executive at The Riverside Group, said: “John steered Riverside through an era of profound change while ensuring that the Group never surrendered its principles. He continued to focus on the people and communities which need affordable housing, high quality services and additional support to enable them to prosper. All these things are ingrained in our DNA.”

Former Chief Executive Deborah Shackleton added: “It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of my colleague, friend and mentor. John and I worked together during a time of rapid change and growth at Riverside. He was an extremely supportive Chairman, who had a sharp strategic mind and a gentle manner.

“He offered enthusiasm for new ideas, tempered by appropriate challenge. He encouraged debate amongst board members and was instrumental in fostering a culture of team spirit between executives and non-executive directors. He represented Riverside on the national stage, always in demand for his wise and considered views.

“He cared about our tenants and was fascinated by new building techniques. He offered me, not just the guidance and advice one might expect from a Chairman, but also his friendship – he will be much missed.”

John Wood, former Executive Director, recalls: “Professor Tarn was a remarkable character. He was Chairman when I first joined the ‘top table’ in 2004 and I will never forget how much he helped put me at ease and feel comfortable in this new and quite daunting environment.

“He had an unshakeable affinity with Riverside’s core values and never let us waiver from them through what was probably the biggest growth spurt the organisation ever experienced.

“I am in no doubt that his legacy to Riverside will be long lasting and deeply significant for many years to come.”

Former Chief Executive, Barry Natton added:  “John was an outstanding Chair. He was consultative, supportive of me, encouraged tenant board members to participate with confidence and wanted to meet Riverside colleagues and talk with them.”