Former council leader dies at the age of 58

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a former councillor credited as one of the driving forces behind the regeneration of Blyth.

Dave Stephens died in his sleep at St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth after losing a lengthy battle with cancer.

The 58-year-old, a long-serving Labour Party member, was leader of the former Blyth Valley Borough Council for over a decade up until its abolition in 2009.

In his role as council leader, he was at the forefront of plans to regenerate Blyth’s quayside and town centre, improving park facilities and having new beach huts built on the seafront.

He even had a building – a seafront amenity block – named after him in recognition of his work.

Mr Stephens, a divorcee with two children, has recently been working as a press officer for Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell.

Tributes have been paid by friends, former colleagues and political rivals.

Mr Campbell had known Mr Stephens for nearly 30 years. He said: “Dave will be a sad loss. I’ll miss him.

“He would do anything for you, and if you asked him to do something, he would.

“He was a great believer in Blyth beach and he pushed the harbour work down there. He achieved a lot of good things as leader of the council.

“He was a hard task-master, even when he was ill.

“He will be a big loss to the party.”

Grant Davey, Northumberland County Council’s Labour group leader, said: “Dave will be an enormous loss to the Blyth Valley party.

“His work rate was phenomenal, and most of the regeneration which took place in Blyth was his idea.”

County council leader Jeff Reid, a Liberal Democrat, said: “It is tremendously sad.

“Dave was always a determined leader of Blyth Valley Borough Council. You always knew where you stood with him. I always enjoyed his company.

“Dave had a vision for what he thought Blyth Valley should be.”

Wayne Daley, Conservative group leader on the council from 1999 to 2009, said: “Dave was always fair and respectful in his dealings with opposition councillors and, above all, he had a passion for the people of Blyth Valley and improving their lives.”

“He was a great community leader and leaves a legacy for local people.”