A COUNCILLOR who was inspired to join local government by the attractive and historic nature of his hometown is retiring after almost 40 years.

John Watson has served as a town councillor in Barnard Castle since winning a by-election in 1976, when he joined the newly-created Teesdale District Council, which had only been operating for two years after replacing the Urban District Council.

From 1991 to 2009, he was elected to serve the town's West ward and was a staunch supporter of affordable housing provision, lobbying for comprehensive traffic management, road safety and a scheme for pedestrian safety.

He has been involved with numerous community organisations during his local government career and says he takes particular pride over his contribution to reviving the Teesdale YMCA, in the town, and the redevelopment of The Witham.

A unanimous vote of gratitude towards Coun Watson was passed at his final Barnard Castle Town Council meeting yesterday (Monday), where his retirement was announced.

Coun John Blissett praised him for his work within the Barnard Castle community, as well as for the local authority.

He said: “John has done a lot of background work that a lot of us would have found difficult to do.”

Coun Tony Cooke added: “I have always found John to be honest, straightforward and to-the-point.

“The time he has served on this council is incredible.”

Town mayor Frank Harrison said: “I hope all members will join with me in wishing councillor Watson well in his retirement and in thanking him wholeheartedly for all the effort and dedication he has shown to Barnard Castle.”

Coun Watson added: “I wish the town council well for the future and urge a solid commitment to ensure a healthy, democratic local government in the town.”

His retirement begins tomorrow (Wednesday), creating a casual vacancy in the town council’s West ward.

If ten or more electors claim a by-election before April 15, it will be held within 60 days.

If no election is claimed, the town council will fill the vacancy.