Honorary Freedom of Higham Ferrers for two long-standing former councillors

They represented the town for a combined total of almost 100 years

Two long-standing former councillors have been given the Honorary Freedom of Higham Ferrers for their outstanding service to the community.

Derek Lawson MBE and Richard Gell represented the town for a combined total of almost 100 years and were recognised at a ceremony on Friday (February 18).

Despite the extreme weather 70 guests turned out for a reception at the Bede House for the presentation.

The ceremony on Friday.

In 1964 a young Derek Lawson was elected to the then Higham Ferrers Borough Council.

He saw the formation of East Northamptonshire District Council which led to Higham Ferrers becoming a town council - he was the longest-serving member of the town council with more than 57 years of service until he stepped down last year.

Derek was also a member of East Northants District Council for more than 20 years, where he was chairman in 1987-88, and he was also a member of Northamptonshire County Council for 40 years and chairman in 2007-08. Derek was vice-chairman of the Police and Crime Panel which was part of the Northants Police Authority before the position of the Police and Crime Commissioner was created.

Among Derek’s other long list of achievements are being chairman of the board of governors at both The Ferrers School and Henry Chichele School. He held the position of chairman of the TASH (Towards a Safer Higham) panel, was involved in the campaigns for “Yes to Rushden Lakes” and played a big part in the Chowns Mill roundabout improvement scheme. He was also heavily involved in the preparation of the Higham Ferrers Neighbourhood Plan.

A town council spokesman said: "Derek has been a very well-respected mayor of Higham Ferrers on three occasions, and the leader of the council for five. For all his years of commitment to local government, Derek’s work was also recognised when he was made an MBE in 2007.

Richard Gell was a member of the town council for more than 37 years, serving firstly as a Conservative councillor before turning Independent.

He stepped down in 2019 but has always kept the connection with the council through his role as the Parish Tree Warden.

Being very involved with the Greenway Project, he played a big part in the extension through to Kimbolton Road. He advised on the Interpretation Boards, not only along the Greenway but also the new Nightingale Way play area. For several years he was the council's representative for the Angling Association, and despite admitting that he knew little about fishing itself he was a tremendous help to them with all the improvements made along the river. Being a member of the Ramblers Association, he was involved with the improvements to the Wharf Road Pocket Park.

Richard was elected to East Northamptonshire Council in 1999 where he served until the recent disbandment. He was part of the planning, licensing and scrutiny committees. He also tended the council flower beds, and could often be seen tending to the dahlias, making sure there were no weeds.

Richard has been mayor twice, once in 1983-84 and again in 2015-16.

A town council spokesman said: "I doubt that there are many local people that Richard doesn't know, but he will always say hello and have a chat.

"Being a mine of information, you could ask him a question, and if he didn't know the answer, he will always find it from his endless books, press cuttings and photographs, some going back many years, and would love telling you about them."