Les Ashworth – lifetime achiever
After many years of tireless work as a volunteer in CPRE Northumberland, Les stood down in 2019 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 our new Treasurer Jeff Wild came along to replace him, Les continued to oversee the Group’s accounts – and is 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, it was Les’s policy to plan ahead so nothing was rushed or skimped, and colleagues were all kept informed and involved in the process.
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 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. He continues to act as an adviser to the Branch, and support the work of the CPRE NE Regional group.
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, 2019.