FORMER West Sussex County Council leader Harold Hall, who later worked on proposals for a large-scale housing and business development at Ford Airfield, has died at his home at Warningcamp, near Arundel, aged 84.
Mr Hall, a retired printing executive, represented the Fontwell division on the county council from 1991 to 2005 and was leader of the council from 2001 to 2003.
Audrey, his wife for 63 years, said Mr Hall was more committed to standing up for the people he represented than toeing the party line, in his case, the Conservatives.
He certainly clashed with Conservatives, particularly on Arun District Council, over the Ford Enterprise Hub scheme he backed, together with Tony Dixon, then Arun councillor for Aldingbourne, and that village’s then parish council chairman John Penfold, from 2004 onwards.
The ‘Aldingbourne three’, as they became known, had no financial interest in any potential development, but later expressed interest in bidding for the controversial Ford Eco-Town development of 5,000 homes and business sites on the former airfield.
The Eco-Town was dropped by the then Labour government, but the three enterprise hub backers continued to highlight the need for more, better-paid jobs, more homes and better transport links in Arun.
Mr Dixon said the enterprise hub’s website, which remains online, was ‘a testament to Harold’s strategic thinking and his passion to speak up for the ‘have-nots’.
Decades before Mr Hall campaigned for development on the airfield, he was based there for his national service, when Ford was a Fleet Air Arm station, although logistical reasons meant most of his time was spent at RAF Tangmere.
Originally from Sutton, Surrey, he met Audrey at a dance in the badminton hall in Littlehampton in 1949. Two years later they were married at St Mary’s Church, Littlehampton, before moving to Wandsworth, where Avril, Laurence and Julie were born, then to Stevenage, as Mr Hall’s printing career progressed. Louise, their fourth child, was born there, but the couple were keen to return to Audrey’s home county of Sussex and moved to Bognor in the 1970s, finally settling in Warningcamp in 1978.
In 1988, he took up a senior management job in contract printing with Portsmouth Publishing and Printing Ltd (PPPL), now part of the Gazette’s parent company Johnston Press, retiring in 1995 but staying on as a consultant for another three or four years.
Ben Stoneham, PPPL managing director at the time, paid tribute to Mr Hall’s work. “He was a great guy, one of the pioneers of our big expansion of contract printing, which led to the printing of the Independent, Observer, Guardian, Observer and eventually the Sun and News of the World at The News Centre.
“He worked very professionally with a number of high-ranking publishing clients on specialist publications, and combined this with his big contribution to public service.”
For all his professional and political achievements, however, he took most pride in his family, said Mrs Hall, 81. “He was devoted to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, very, very proud of them all, and in seeing them growing up with a well-balanced outlook on life.”
The funeral service for Mr Hall, who died on Thursday, will be at St Mary Magdalene Church, Lyminster, at 11am on Tuesday (March 10).