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Nobody can go on forever

Peter Lee has served with distinction as an elected councillor, leading the town’s regeneration efforts and keeping the district’s finances in the black. Here the 63-year-old Tory talks about stepping down to enjoy the finer things in life.

aHow did you first get involved in local politics?
I’ve lived in Herne Bay since I was two. I was chairman of the Young Conservatives in the town in 1977, and had been fairly critical of the council in the weeks prior to a council by-election. People told me we needed some younger councillors and that I ought to stand because I had enthusiasm for the job, so I went to the interview. I represented Herne Bay East and West Central, which is largely the same ward as the town centre ward of Heron today. I fought and won the by-election in 1977,1 won again in 1979 and 1983, but lost in 1987. Afterwards, my job as an IT director became more time consuming, so I stood in places where I was likely to lose. But in 2003, I won in West Bay, which had been a fairly safe Labour ward. I have represented the ward since then.

Why are you standing down now?
I thought that nobody can go on forever. I made the decision at the start of this term that it would be my last. It’s time to let somebody else have a chance. If I stood again for another four-year term then I will be 67 by the time of the next election. But now there are things I want to do that will take me out of the area. I’ve had to be tied to Canterbury and Herne Bay with meetings and a diary which has been busy from 6am to 11pm most days.

What are your proudest achievements as a councillor?
In Herne Bay I think the main one has been the work with the pier. We moved the pavilion off the pier and built the Bay Arena at the High School. It has gone from strength to strength, with everyone who uses it saying they love it, and it has allowed international matches to return to the town. It has also allowed the Pier Trust to develop, which can tap into lots of sources of funding, with beach huts there and plans for a great performance area. With regeneration we’ve had the news of the development of the Altira park with a new Sainsbury’s and a new Aldi store in the town centre. The thing we found was that so many people in Herne Bay spend money outside the town, so the best way to reverse that trend is to have a better retail offering and choice for people. We’ve also had the investment going in to improving play parks on the seafront, the refurbishment of the Clock Tower, the new Jubilee coastal park from Tankerton to Reculver and the country park there.

What do you think could happen in May?
It’s going to be very interesting, I don’t think, anyone knows. Ukip did very well in recent elections, but on a very low turn out. This time round, more people will be voting in local elections as it coincides with the general election. It makes the results quite difficult to forecast.

What is your favourite thing about Herne Bay?
While I might not have been born here, I was certainly bred here. I like the community spirit people have. There are so many people who give up their time and effort to run clubs and societies. When you look at the Clock Tower lights restoration, you can see people really are interested in what is happening here and its history, and also its future.

What does the future hold?
There are things that I would like to do outside the town. I’ve always been a cricket fan and used to play and umpire when I was younger. I have missed the chance to go to cricket grounds and a number of overseas tours, so I’m looking forward to new opportunities to go and watch cricket, and also to having the chance to do things that an ordinary person can do.

Herne Bay Gazette, February 26th 2015

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