COUNCILLORS praised the outgoing chairman of Stratton St Margaret Parish Council for his brief but commendable time in charge.

Stuart Leach decided to step down from his post after two years in the role because he no longer lives in the parish. The 67-year-old chaired his last meeting and handed the reins over to his successor Coun Rob Jandy earlier this month.

Stuart said: “All my life I have been picked as a leader- I was a union rep at school and a a patrol scout leader in later years - and two years ago somebody proposed that I should be chairman here and I said alright.

“It has been full-on with the Grange Leisure feasibility study and advising on the knock-on effects of the New Eastern Villages developments which are on our doorstep and I would not have been able to do this role justice if I hadn’t been retired.

"What I found especially pleasing about this is the way every single one of my colleagues put so much hard work into their duties, and we got along well and had fun, which is comforting."

His friends and colleagues paid tribute to him

Coun Barrie Jennings said: "He's brought a great deal of common sense and clarity to the post of chairman. Meetings have been relaxed and people have been serious but not pompous or formal. We will miss him, he's very steady, reliable, and a calming influence. The next chair has a lot to live up to."

Coun Brian Ford said: "I think he's done a great job, he'll be a tough act to follow. He's devoted a huge amount of time to the council and I think he will be missed very much, it's a great shame that he's left but it's time for change."

Coun Teresa Page thanked ex-councillor Leach for his "diligence and care. We will miss you, we've had a laugh."

Originally from Stroud, Stuart came to Swindon in 1874 for his first teaching job at Ferndale School, worked there until it closed, then moved on to Churchyard School and Bradon Forest School. After spending 42 years teaching generations of Swindon schoolchildren, he retired and got into local politics.

During his time as chairman, Stuart has overseen publication of the first draft of the parish's neighbourhood plan for residents to respond to and helped to choose Parkwood Leisure as a business partner for the parish council which will renovate and run Stratton's main community hub.

Stuart has now moved out of the area and, although his new home is within the allowable three-mile limit for parish councillors to attend meetings, he felt that he could not represent Stratton if he did not live there.

Mr Leach added: "I will now fill my time with more Scouts stuff because I've been heavily involved in that organisation for more than 30 years. I used to be the district commissioner and now I'm the local training manager for scouts in the Swindon Ridgeway district.

"I would say to my replacement that you need a mix of levity and diplomacy to be parish council chairman - and if you are not enjoying it, why are you doing it?"

Coun Rob Jandy has been voted the new parish council chairman and Coun Tim Page has become the new vice chairman.