Ribble Valley Council head of housing and regeneration retiring after 33 years
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Colin Hirst joined Ribble Valley Borough Council as forward planning manager in 2004, before being made head of regeneration and housing.
He grew up in Fleetwood and attended Oxford Brookes University, where he gained a degree in planning and post-graduate diploma in commercial development.
He then worked at international product engineering company Glasdon and later Wyre Council as a planning assistant.
He undertook a diploma in management studies at Lancaster University, before joining Ribble Valley Council.
Colin and his team were at the forefront of several housing emergencies, particularly the 2015 Boxing Day floods, when they rehoused over 100 displaced families and distributed over £85,000 in flood resilience grants.
Colin said: “There are many risks and challenges associated with housing development in rural areas, but when we get it right by meeting acute housing needs while protecting the countryside it gives me great satisfaction.
“We have helped to deliver hundreds of affordable houses in one of the most in-demand rural boroughs in the UK and more recently helped to house 50 desperate Ukrainian families within weeks, which is a fantastic way to end my local government career.”
As well as compiling the Ribble Valley Local Plan, a meaty document setting out planning policy in the borough, he has also led on the delivery of over 1,000 much-needed affordable homes.
More recently, he and his team help to house 50 Ukrainian families in the borough, one of the quickest response rates in Lancashire.
And from up-and-coming companies to chic business sheds, he has also led council support for several notable economic development projects, including the expansion of the Barrow Brook Business Village, Salthill Industrial Estate in Clitheroe and Mitton Road Business Park in Whalley, as well as the relocation of Thwaites Brewery to Mellor Brook.
Alison Brown, chairman of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning and development committee, said: “Colin is a consummate professional, reliable and diligent, with a wealth and breadth of planning and housing knowledge.
“He is typical of local government’s unsung heroes, who beaver away behind the scenes to keep the community wheels turning.
“Not only has he delivered the borough’s Local Plan, a feat in itself, but his team have delivered a vital service when it mattered the most, such as the 2015 Boxing Day floods, when they rehoused over 100 displaced households and distributed much-needed flood resilience grants.
“Colin will certainly be missed and I wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.”
Council chief executive, Marshal Scott, said: “The Boxing Day floods were devastating, with many residents forced from their homes and in a desperate position.
“The response of council staff, notably our housing team, demonstrated a huge level of dedication during what was a public holiday. This can only be achieved by the commitment of officers like Colin, who provide efficient services to customers and communities they care about.
“Colin is an outstanding officer and we wish him the very best for a happy and well-earned retirement.”
Colin said he is now looking forward to spending more time walking on the beach, gardening, getting fit and tinkering with a classic car.