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CPRE Northumberland

Les Ashworth: a Lifetime Achievement in CPRE

Monday, 01 July 2019 09:17

Les Ashworth: a Lifetime Achievement in CPRE

After many years of tireless work...

...as a volunteer in CPRE Northumberland, Les has this year stood down from ‘active service’ to enjoy his retirement with Jane, his wife, and spend time on other interests. It is typical of his sense of responsibility, however, that until a new Treasurer comes along to replace him, Les is continuing to oversee the Group’s accounts and still keeping in touch to offer advice and know-how with the trickier jobs that come our way.

About twenty years ago, Les became active in protecting the local countryside in the Tyne Valley District Group of CPRE Northumberland. He was particularly involved in opposing threats to the Green Belt from quarrying and open cast mining (at Halton Lea and Whittonstall), and many other developments. He also spent time working with the Corbridge Village Trust.

It wasn’t long before he was extending his range to the whole of county (and Newcastle and North Tyneside for good measure). In 2007 Les became Treasurer of CPRE Northumberland. He set up a business plan and organised appeals which radically improved the group’s finances. In his twelve years the bank balance of CPRE Northumberland steadily built up a valuable reserve, giving us options now and security for the future.

When GDPR was introduced, Les steered us through the regulations with his usual common sense and clarity. When the procedural protocol he drew up for us to follow was sent to our London headquarters, they immediately saw it as an exemplar for other groups in the network. As business manager, Les plans ahead so nothing is rushed or skimped, and colleagues are all kept informed and involved in the process.

          Les and dog

Les’s contribution was never limited to business alone, but covered all the essentials of CPRE’s work. He knows and loves Northumberland, yet is hard-headed in approaching planning issues, preparing letters of concern or objection with cool rationality and well-evidenced arguments. He has been unstinting over the years in helping others to ‘learn the trade’ of planning discourse, and develop a realistic approach to controversial cases. He fostered links with other organisations, meeting a senior officer of Historic England to discuss common cause and supporting the campaign group opposing a development at the Spanish Battery, a notable feature of the Tynemouth scene.

All of this has been done, over the years, with a strong sense of responsibility operating beneath an unassuming modesty. Following the sad death of our Chair, Professor Howard Elcock, in 2017 (and the resignations of other volunteers from ill-health), Les quietly held the remaining group together, maintaining the same high level of service our members expect of us. Last year, following the retirement of Ian Warburton, he oversaw the appointment of Annie, our new Secretary. Meanwhile he has contributed fully at a regional level, seeing that Northumberland concerns were well represented at NE Regional meetings and all required reports unfailingly submitted on time, to both regional and national organisations.

Everyone who has worked with Les has benefitted from the experience. His professional thoroughness and unstinting willingness to tackle whatever turns up, combined with a balanced judgement and positive encouragement to others, offer a model of good leadership. It is entirely fitting that his achievements in CPRE Northumberland have been recognised in a Lifetime Award, presented to him by CPRE’s CEO, Crispin Truman OBE, at the Annual Conference in Birmingham on 26 June.

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