'It's been a privilege' - Long serving county councillor reflects on career

Tim East, who is standing down as Costessey county councillor after 25 years, and district and town

Former Costessey county councillor Tim East. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

He was inspired to join local politics to fix a "derelict asbestos-ridden shack" used by his sons as football changing rooms nearly 40 years ago.

And after representing Costessey on Norfolk County Council for over 20 years, Liberal Democrat Tim East, 76, has stood down, to be replaced by another member of the party, Sharon Blundell, following this month's elections.

Reflecting on his departure, Mr East, who still sits on Costessey Town Council, which he was voted onto in 1983, said: "It has been a privilege to serve Costessey but the time has come to retire gracefully and hand it over to Sharon who will be a fantastic champion."

The former teacher, who lives at St Walstans Close, first came to Costessey in 1959 when his parents moved to the area.

He returned with his wife Barbara, also a former teacher whom he married in 1971, in the 1970s after teacher training at Bletchley Park in the same buildings where the Enigma code was cracked during the Second World War.

Mr East, a lifelong Norwich City Football Club fan, said: "I wanted to help people. You get a sense of achievement from doing casework to sort a problem affecting a person's quality of life. It has been a wonderful experience."

But despite being settled in one place in his working life, his formative years were spent in various places around the world because of his father's position within the British Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and RAF as an education officer.

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After contracting polio aged three while in Germany, Mr East spent five years in and out of hospital around Portsmouth, where he was looked after by relatives and during that time nearly died in an iron lung.

His father's final posting was to RAF Watton which led to the family's move to Costessey.

After a brief stint as a civil servant at Norwich's tax office, he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and go into teaching after completing a degree from Oxford University.

Mr East was senior teacher at Costessey Junior School from 1975-83 before moving onto Mattishall Middle School where he became deputy headteacher and headteacher at Barnham Broom school.

Tim East with his class at Costessey Junior School in 1980-81.

Tim East with his class at Costessey Junior School in 1980-81. - Credit: Tim East

He said: "I had lovely times teaching."

But it was when his sons Ben and Tom, then aged nine and seven, he decided to get involved with politics.

Mr East, who has three grandchildren, said: "I wanted to be involved in the community. The catalyst was when my sons were playing for Costessey Sports Club junior side at Longwater Lane and they were changing in primitive conditions. The facilities were in two prefabricated houses from the Second World War.

The old changing rooms on Longwater Lane, Costessey, which were replaced with the bigger Costessey Centre.

The old changing rooms on Longwater Lane, Costessey, which were replaced with the bigger Costessey Centre. - Credit: Tim East

"I decided the only way to change things was to become politically active. Eventually after 30 years of lobbying we [the town council] helped build a new modern state of the art Costessey Centre on the same footprint of the former derelict asbestos-ridden shack."

The Costessey Centre on Longwater Lane, which replaced old changing rooms.

The Costessey Centre on Longwater Lane, which replaced old changing rooms. - Credit: Tim East

As well being voted onto the then Costessey Parish Council, he was voted onto South Norfolk Council in the same year -1983- and was voted onto the county council in 1997 after his retirement from teaching.

He said the art of politics and being a teacher was all down to communication.

Mr East, a founder member of the Costessey Liberals group in 1977, added: "I became a Liberal because you don't have to follow the party line and can vote according to your conscience. That is very important."

Highlights of his political career within the county council included helping stop an incinerator from being built on Longwater Industrial Estate, the relocation of the Roundwell Medical Centre, preventing the proposed closure of Beechcroft Surgery and a major housing development off Farmland Road in the River Tud valley.

Tim East, Norfolk County Councillor for Costessey. Picture: Bill Smith

Tim East during a debate over the proposed incinerator in King's Lynn in 2014. - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

He is also pleased about the Broadland Northway, known as the NDR, and is a firm backer of the Norwich Western Link as well as disability rights.

Mr East said the biggest change he had seen in Costessey was the large amount of development, including Queen's Hill, which was why building a second exit from the estate was important as well as investment into schools and infrastructure.

He plans to stay on Costessey Town Council until 2023, and praised the area as somewhere he would always want to live in.

"I have already bought my graves in Costessey Cemetery. When I pop my clogs I want to be in the dead centre of the community," Mr East added.

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