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Obituary: Bill Thompson

Obituary: Councillor Bill ThompsonSadly, this week marked the passing of another proper, old-fashioned, capable, and highly respected Councillor from Fylde Borough.

We greatly regret the loss.

Councillor Bill Thompson was for many years Chairman of the Planning Committee and guided Fylde well during his term of office. He did not always seek the easy way out, and would argue his ground when he felt the need. But he respected the views of others and made sure they had the opportunity to express them. Not for him the administrative sleights of hand to get a vote taken before people have realised what was happening. With Bill Thompson, everyone got a fair and equal say and a fair and equal vote.

In Fylde he represented the electorate of Clifton Ward in Lytham for many years, and was also elected to the County Council with three times the votes of his nearest rival.

As a former physicist with a background in the nuclear industry, he was a member of the Nuclear Legacy Advisory Forum for the Local Government Association based in London, and locally was also a member of the Springfields Site Stakeholder Group

He was known to us a friend for more than 20 years and over that time we saw him perform in some sticky situations - especially in the planning arena.

Planning matters often arouse passions in those opposed to some development, but he had a unique manner of walking straight into a crowd of protestors and saying "Now then, tell me what you're concerned about. What is it you want me to know" This would calm the whole situation down and it showed both a fearlessness on his part, his willingness to listen to the concerns of others. He always assumed he would be treated fairly and properly if he treated the public in the same manner, and he was right.

The most recent example of this was shortly before his recent illness where a crowd of a hundred or so people protesting about the Heeley Road Hostel scheme besieged the Council offices with banners and placards in opposition. Several Councillors - including the chairman of that meeting - drove up and ignored the protest, walking straight into the comparative safety of the Town Hall.

But not Cllr Thompson. He got out of his car, slowly strolled across the Car Park, and asked "Now then what's this all about" And he listened to the concerns and gained respect for doing so.

That's why he was so respected. He had earned that respect, he had no expectation that his position as a Councillor demanded it. A true old fashioned councillor. No Spin. No deception. Just plain honesty and common sense. He was a man with his own view - and if he disagreed with others, then he would say so in gentlemanly fashion. And if he felt strongly about something, he would speak, and vote against, a party whip.

That's quite possibly why he was not one of the Commissar's 'chosen ones', and why he was deselected as the sitting candidate for the County Council around 2007 See 'The Dust Settles...' Along with the also experienced Cllrs Colin Walton and Alfred Jealous he was, in effect, nominated for removal from office at county hall. Typical of the man he said not a word of complaint about this calculating and callous treatment as he was passed over for a younger and perhaps more compliant model at County Hall. As we said at the time, there's no room for dissent around the Commissar, and clearly, it's not the ability to think that counts.

Perhaps his most notable achievement of recent years was at the '"Say NO" - Protest of 400 people at Lowther Pavilion' when Kensington had a series of planning applications being considered to develop sites around Fylde. They had angered local residents, caused the genesis of Defend Lytham and upset many of the Councillors. The final trick in the debate went to Lytham's respected old hand Councillor Bill Thompson who proposed refusal of the application because it was contrary to their plan, it caused traffic problems and would further aggravate social and physical infrastructure problems. Seconded by Councillor Barbara Pagett, refusal was approved by almost the whole committee, to the obvious (and audible) delight of the 400 or so people wearing the "Say No" badges and protesting against the development.

He understood both planning and people.

At the height of the campaign to prevent the sale of part of Ashton Gardens for a block of flats, the Supporters of Ashton Gardens had organised a referendum to test public opinion on the matter. The group wanted a councillor from the Conservative Group (who were leading the plan to sell the land) to oversee that the count was undertaken fairly and properly, and to agree how to treat any uncertain votes. Clearly they wanted a Conservative they felt able to trust, and it was no surprise when they asked Cllr Thompson to act as the monitor.

It was also no surprise that he immediately accepted. But what might have surprised some was that at a subsequent Council meeting the Commissar was holding forth on the benefits of selling part of the gardens, and was followed by Cllr Thompson who stood up and reminded both the Commissar and the Council that he had seen a properly conducted referendum count which showed that more than 98% of people in St Anne's were against the sale of any part of the gardens.

He was a man of stature, of independent mind, and true gentleman.

He leaves big shoes to be filled.

Bill Thompson was a friend and one of the few people left at Fylde who knew how a Council should be run. Fylde is greatly diminished by his absence.

Dated:  7 September 2009


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