Motorway police chief retires

Insp. Phil Cottam (S)
Insp. Phil Cottam (S)

POPULAR and highly-respected Police Inspector Phil Cottam, who was in charge of patrolling the region’s motorways for years, has now retired.

Insp. Cottam, who lives in Brierfield, has spent the past 12 months or so dealing with a whole series of key events in the county, including the Royal visit to Burnley, the Olympic torch runs, Lancashire Constabulary’s link with the London 2012 Olympics and the Open Golf Championship at Lytham.

He was born in Ormskirk but then brought up in Mawdesley where his family was involved in farming.

In 1981, he joined the police. After training, he was given a role in a rural environment at Clitheroe. But in his first week there, he was sent to deal with the Toxteth riots - which was far from a countryside setting! He had to stay there dealing with the unrest for nearly 24 hours.

In 1984, he moved to Nelson, and after four years joined the Colne traffic police team, trained as an advanced driver.

He admits to having a bit of an embarrassment once. In 1989, he stopped a car in Market Street, Colne, and left his new top-range police vehicle quickly to confront the driver. But he said: “Unfortunately, I didn’t put the handbrake on correctly. As I talked to him, my car made its own way back and hit a bank!” It set the alarm off.

Despite that, he was promoted to sergeant at Barnoldswick immediately afterwards, based at the town’s old police station .

Later, he worked backwards and forwards between Colne and Nelson.

In the late 1990s he was an acting inspector at Burnley but was officially promoted to inspector at Blackburn in July, 2000. He was then at Accrington for two years, but in 2004 be became the inspector in charge of the Motorway Police Unit which covered the whole of Lancashire, and some areas outside it eventually.

In March, 2011, he was in a position to retire, but took up the offer of working at the county’s headquarters preparing the major events which were coming up.

Insp. Cottam (52), who has lived in Brierfield for the past 21 years, said: “I enjoyed working on the motorway but it was a very demanding role - at times, there were real tragedies. You never know what is going to happen. On any day of the week it’s part of the challenge of doing that job.

“I had thoroughly enjoyed working here in East Lancashire. They have been really good communities to work in.

“I’m looking forward to my retirement but I will miss my job.

“I am doing a lot more walking now. I have been up Pendle Hill four times this year. I am going to take it easy for a few months and get fitter after sitting on a desk for quite a while! I’m hoping to get something to do workwise after than - hopefully locally.” He also enjoys gardening in Brierfield.