Chairman retires after decade of service to parish

Branscombe’s long-standing chairman, who presided over the Napoli disaster, is to step down from his position next month.

John Bass, has spent 11 years in charge of the parish council, but said he feels it is time to stand aside and let somebody else take over the reins.

The councillor said: “I’ve always been a great believer in not going on for too long, I never imagined I would be chairman for 11 years when I took over.

“And never in a million years did I think I’d be a councillor for 30 years!”

His time in charge will forever be associated with the Napoli disaster in 2007, when the world descended on the normally-quiet village.

Looking back on that time he said: “They’re mostly quite good memories, myself and the former town clerk Linda Hughes, I think we looked after the village very well.

“You’re living your quiet life, and then suddenly your find yourself in the middle of a media storm.

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“Everyone wanted a piece of us.”

The 63-year-old said he is not bitter about the incident, and attended the public inquiry at Devon County hall, hoping lessons would be learnt so no village had to go through what Branscombe did.

One of the biggest projects he tried to complete as chairman has been to try and get more affordable housing built in Branscombe, something which he is still fighting for.

He will remain a parish councillor for another year, taking him to his 30 years of civic service, but admits it will be odd to attend meetings without being in the chair.

But he does have advice for the council on who they should choose to take his place: “I’ve always said, you should never elect a tee-total chairman, otherwise there’s nothing to concentrate their minds and the meeting goes on and on!”

It all started for him when he and a friend, Bob Gibbons, were both approached by a current parish councillor in the early 1980s, who said: “You need to put your name down.”

John said they both did, and were duly elected, and he added he has never looked back.

Born and raised in the village, he lives with his wife and is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchild once he stands down as council chair.

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